August 7, 2023

Student Freedom Initiative Expands to Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and Aims to Support Underserved Native American Students

WASHINGTON, DC [Aug. 7, 2023] - Today, Student Freedom Initiative is pleased to announce the historic memorandum of understanding with Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University, located in Hayward, Wisconsin, as part of the Tribal Colleges and Universities portfolio. This partnership is a modern funding solution for Ojibwe University and ignites innovative financial resources curated for the Indigenous and Native American communities. This partnership also follows a long-standing commitment to investing in minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and builds on future program investments.

The agreement will provide Native American and Indigenous students with financial tools and work opportunities. Students at Ojibwe University will also benefit from venture capital education, internship opportunities, tutoring, mentoring and capacity building through Student Freedom Initiative. The goal of the partnership is to support student financial needs beyond paying for college by providing new technological equipment and teaching students how to invest their money, how to grow a network and the importance of relationship building. Every student is deserving of a quality education, and through this partnership, SFI is committed to building a future filled with prosperity.

This agreement is a significant breakthrough for the Indigenous community and is symbolic for SFI.

“Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University’s priority has always been the success of our students, the partnership with SFI is significant not only for our students but for all tribal colleges and universities. This innovative funding tool will strengthen our current programs and support more Native American students to achieve and obtain sovereignty for themselves and future generations. SFI’s partnership provides another opportunity for LCOOU students to build their skills, supporting them through graduation and preparing our new alumni for the workforce. The agreement is significant for LCOOU and SFI, and the first of its kind for all Tribal Colleges and Universities. Chi-miigwech to Dr. Mark A. Brown and Toney Begay from SFI for the opportunity to develop this partner,” said President Russell Swagger of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University.

The agreement encourages the use of non-monetary forms of support, including internships and certifications, as well as targeted capacity building, such as access to affordable broadband. The partnership aims to focus on the education of the Indigenous and Native American populations, specifically a future filled with new technologies and innovations.

“I am thrilled to welcome Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University to the Student Freedom Initiative cohort,” said Robert F. Smith, Board Chair of Student Freedom Initiative. “It is an honor to partner with tribal colleges and universities to give their students the financial freedom to soar in their careers. I cannot wait to see what these students will achieve.”

The Student Freedom Initiative is making significant investments in the education of Indigenous and Native American communities to strengthen the bridge of hope for the future, as this partnership shows.

“SFI is committed to diversity and inclusion across all minority demographics. We’re thankful that Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University is taking this leap of faith and becoming our partner. Every student is deserving of a quality education, and through this partnership, we are committed to building a future filled with prosperity. This partnership aims to bridge the equality gap and be an example for other Tribal Colleges and Universities to follow,” said Mark A. Brown, SFI’s executive director.

"Cisco is proud to provide cyber security support to Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University," says Scott McGregor, Director of Cisco's Social Justice Action Office. "Powering a safe and connected world is a core part of our purpose and we look forward to supporting this important work."

With the addition of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University, Student Freedom Initiative is now engaged with 57 minority-serving institutions (MSIs) participating in one or more components of the program in a total of 22 states and U.S. territories.

About Student Freedom Initiative

A single-purpose nonprofit organization, Student Freedom Initiative aims to reduce the wealth gap through the lens of education. This is achieved by providing a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choices for students attending Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) by increasing their social and economic mobility using a student-centric, evidence-based, holistic and collaborative approach. Initially focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Student Freedom Initiative enables mobility through four transformational components: (1) Student Freedom Fund as a private education loan alternative to Parent PLUS loans; (2) internships and industry-driven certifications; (3) comprehensive support; and (4) targeted MSI capacity building (e.g., access to affordable broadband, strengthening endowment governance and risk adjusted returns, workforce development in clean energy). Student Freedom Initiative collaborates with community-based organizations, businesses and governmental entities through public-private partnerships to make sustainable, systemic changes to support the entire MSI ecosystem.

To date, the Student Freedom Initiative has received generous contributions from Robert F. Smith, Fund 2 Foundation, Cisco, Jane Street, Prudential, First Republic and the Walmart Foundation. The program has also been acknowledged and supported by the Business Roundtable’s Racial Equity & Justice Subcommittee on Education. Our ability to provide support to MSI students is based on the continued financial support of these donors and others interested in aiding our mission.

To learn more, visit https://studentfreedominitiative.org/, and follow us on Twitter @StudentFreedom