Student Freedom Initiative Announces $1.8 Million Grant from Prudential Financial to Launch the Handling Everyday Life Problems for Students (HELPS) Program. Read More.

We Provide a Catalyst for Freedom

Who We Are

Who We Are

Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choices for students attending a Minority Serving Institution (MSI) by increasing their social and economic mobility. In close collaboration with participating schools and other strategic partners, we address the wealth gap through the lens of affordable access to a college education, opportunity for hands on professional and life training, integrated student services, and technology enhancement.  We provide support to students that enable their future personal and professional success in a global marketplace and targeted support to participating institutions that increase their resiliency and competitiveness as anchors within their respective communities.

Our program launched in the fall of 2021, initially focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) due to their historic contribution to the nation.  However, we intend to expand to other MSIs in the future. Please see our FAQs below for more information.

As a nonprofit public charity, our strategy is to raise a significant amount of donated funding that supports our efforts. Among other donations, Student Freedom Initiative’s initial funding includes a $50 million personal gift from Robert F. Smith — philanthropist and Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners — and a $50 million gift from the Fund II Foundation — a charitable organization committed to advancing social change, of which Mr. Smith is founding director.  Please see donors for those who have provided financial and/or in-kind support in the fulfillment of our mission.

Student Freedom Initiative is guided by the following core values as we pursue our mission:

Student Freedom Initiative is guided by the following core values as we pursue our mission:

Student-Centered

SFI remains acutely focused on the interest of students/families and recognizes that their success benefits communities, employers and MSIs.

Holistic

SFI elevates the totality of the MSI ecosystem; recognizes the implication to people, process, technology, and governance; and provides a suite of solutions that enable MSI and student success.

Evidence-Based

SFI refines and adjusts its program to optimize student outcomes based on continuous analysis of data throughout the program’s lifecycle, and generates high quality research to support broad(er) adoption of this transformative program.

Collaborative

SFI develops mission-aligned, strategic partnerships; leverages core competencies of subject matter experts; and capitalizes on synergies with related goals.

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We take a holistic approach in our drive to empower and prepare the next generation for a limitless future.

Income-Contingent Alternative

Income-Contingent Alternative

We offer eligible students an income-contingent alternative to Parent Plus and private loans via our Student Freedom Agreement. In exchange for funding, students agree to make payments that are based on what they earn after leaving college. The student-centric terms of our Student Freedom Agreement offers students a number of financial and non-financial benefits, and all funds received under these arrangements are recycled back into our program for future students.

Tutoring, Mentorships, and Other Services

Tutoring, Mentorships, and Other Services

We collaborate with participating schools, corporate partners, community-based organizations, and others to provide access to a host of student support resources, including tutoring and mentoring. We offer resume writing, interview techniques, and test-taking techniques (via InternX Program), and in the near future we will also provide services such as microgrants based on one-time unforeseen emergencies, summer immersion programs, and academic, career, and mental health counseling.

Internships

Internships

We work with the InternX program to provide students, starting as early as rising sophomore year and across all majors, with access to nationwide paid internships. The InternX program is strategically designed to match students with employers that fit their interests, providing them with invaluable on-the-job learning experiences, networking opportunities with senior-level executives, and transferable skills for college and future endeavors.

Targeted Capacity-Building

Targeted Capacity-Building

Capacity-Building is intended to increase the resilience and competitiveness of the participating institutions.  With the help of our partners, we focus on supporting participating institutions moving through the research continuum to R1 Research Institutions, collaborating with the federal government and other research organizations, defining common shared services solutions, and other needs specifically identified by the institutions.  Currently, we are implementing cyber security upgrades at HBCUs who have agreed to participate .  The upgrades are based on the Department of Education guidance and grant writing support for Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband and the Connecting Minority Communities Program (CMCPP). Review FAQs for more information on the cybersecurity effort

FAQs

1

What is Student Freedom Initiative?

Student Freedom Initiative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choices for students attending Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) by increasing their social and economic mobility.

2

What does Student Freedom Initiative do?

Student Freedom Initiative serves as a bridge between participating institutions and philanthropy, corporations, and others who seek to provide sustained support to elevate the social and economic mobility of students and increase the resilience and competitiveness of the participating institutions.

While initially focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) because of the historic economic and social inequities, and their historic significance and contribution of talent to the nation, Student Freedom Initiative intends to expand to other MSIs in the future.

3

Why was Student Freedom Initiative created? How is it unique?

Student Freedom Initiative was created to address the wealth gap by targeting the disproportionate student loan debt burden faced by all too many students of color. Structured as a “pay it forward” program, donations and payments made by participating students will enable Student Freedom Initiative to operate as a self-sustaining program that will benefit future generations of students and their families. Our program is designed so that every $10 million invested in the program will cover 100 new students at MSIs every year, forever.

We are unique because we are building an endowment without walls that provides a replacement for the Parent Plus and private loans for eligible students majoring in STEM attending HBCUs, forever.  Based on the funds raised, it is our aspiration to extend this endowment without walls to other MSIs.

We provide holistic services that are evidence-based, and student-centered; and leverage proven, scalable solutions and strategic partnerships.  Our mission is to provide a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choice by enabling the upward social and economic mobility of students of color through three integrated components: (1) Income Contingent Alternative – a self-sustaining fund with increased flexibility and lower cost in comparison to Parent Plus and private loans for juniors and seniors majoring in STEM, (2) Internships – hands on experience in career area of study, access to corporate leadership, industry recognized certifications, and team projects for rising sophomores and above across all majors, and (3) Tutoring, Mentorships, and Other Services -  Increased persistence through wrap around services, including emergency microgrants.   Not only do we assist students, we support participating institutions increase their resilience and competitiveness by providing cyber security upgrades to retain access to needs-based funding and grant writing support.

4

Who funds Student Freedom Initiative?

As a nonprofit public charity, we rely on the generous contributions from philanthropists. These are the Anchor Donors and Other Donors who have provided who have provided financial and/or in-kind support in the fulfillment of our mission.

In addition, all funds received from students under our Student Freedom Agreement will be recycled back into our program, and we will use these funds to continue to build the endowment without walls.

5

When will the Student Freedom Agreement be available?

Eligible students at participating schools began receiving funds under our Student Freedom Agreement in the fall of 2021.

6

Who are the participating schools in the income-contingent alternative component of the program?

Student Freedom Initiative selects additional MSI in the 4Q of each calendar year for the following academic year.

The selection process starts in 1Q Calendar Year (CY) 20xx with a request for data   Student Freedom Initiative analyzes and cleanses the data received in the 2Q CY 20xx.  Student Freedom Initiative makes a preliminary determination and notifies the institution of a tentative selection no later than end of 2Q CY 20xx.  No Later Than (NLT) the end of 3Q calendar year 20xx, the institution acknowledges acceptance and completes a common Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which defines relative roles and responsibilities, provisions for protecting personally identifiable information, and other areas of mutual concern.  With final signature of the MOU, Student Freedom Initiative announces the next institution (frequently referred to as a cohort) who would be included for academic year 20x1 for the following components of Student Freedom Initiative: (1) Income Contingent Alternative, (2) Internships, and (3) Tutoring, Mentorships, and Other Services).  Each institution can determine within which of the three components they would like to participant.

Please refer to the schools page for the current list of participating institutions.

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Join the Movement

We depend on the generous support of individuals, corporate partners, community advocates, and others to achieve our mission. With your help, we can lift up generations of students and empower them for success.

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