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April 21, 2023
Student Freedom Initiative Instrumental in Helping HBCUs Apply and Receive Important Broadband Grants from Federal Government
(Washington)—In February 2023, 61 colleges and universities were awarded more than $175 million as part of the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program (CMC). Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) was instrumental in helping 19 HBCUs apply and receive awards. We hope more HBCUs, minority-serving institutions and Tribal Colleges will receive awards later this year.
The Connecting Minority Communities pilot program is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All Initiative aimed at connecting everyone in America with affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service. This program directs $268 million from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 for expanding high-speed Internet access and connectivity to eligible HBCUs, Tribal Colleges, and minority-serving institutions.
“The SFI team worked tirelessly with our partner schools, helping them navigate the application process and providing invaluable assistance in assessing their individual broadband needs,” said Dr. Mark A. Brown, SFI’s Executive Director. “We know these awards will help schools provide quality and affordable broadband connectivity on campus. We are equally hopeful and stand ready to assist in ensuring broadband support gets to the HBCU host communities as well.”
Among the schools SFI assisted were Bennett College and Johnson C. Smith University.
“The CMC pilot program will help bridge the digital divide in Bennett College’s neighboring community by providing internet access and certificate programs in critical areas. The Student Freedom Initiative played a significant role in the grant application process and has partnered to assist with evaluation and reporting to ensure success in the implementation of Bennett College’s E-CAMP (Entrepreneurship, Coding, and Artificial Intelligence for members of the Community) program that is being funded by the CMC grant,” said Dr. Mondrail Myrick, Director, Management Information Services at Bennett College.
“Johnson C. Smith appreciates the support and efforts of the SFI initiative. With the support of SFI Johnson C. Smith was able to clearly identify network infrastructure and security shortcomings, untimely assisting our efforts to craft a meaningful and adaptable "NTIA- Connecting Minority Communities" proposal. The combination of first-class software made available via SFI and the network hardware approved by NTIA CMC will transform JCSU's environment,” said John Norris, the university’s Chief Information Officer.
The federal government is announcing awards on a rolling basis.
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 an income contingent alternative to Parent Plus loans, (2) Internships and industry-driven certifications, (3) Tutoring/Mentorships/Other Services, and (4) Targeted HBCU 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 HBCU ecosystem.
To date, 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 supporting our mission.