July 27, 2022

Philanthropist Robert F Smith Launches Grant Program For HBCU Students

Billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith recently announced the launch of the Student Freedom Initiative, a program designed to provide paid internships to HBCU students.  

Robert F. Smith will launch the Student Freedom Initiative’s HELPS Program in partnership with financial regulation company Prudential Finance. The partnership will address Black students’ disproportionate financial loan burden, which often hinders their career progression.

The program aims to provide science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) HBCU students with $1.8 million in microgrants, which will act as a contingent fund alongside their traditional college loans. 

Robert F. Smith, famously known for paying off the student loan debt for Morehouse students in 2020, is one of the wealthiest Black men in the US. Over the years, Smith has dedicated many earnings to supporting Black students. The recent launch of his non-profit grant program is an example of that. 

“Student Freedom Initiative applauds the leadership of Prudential Financial and their support for our shared mission of eliminating barriers of access for underserved communities,” said Robert F. Smith, Chairman of the Student Freedom Initiative. 

“By enabling the launch of the HELPS Program, a vital component of our work to address the holistic needs of HBCU students and families, Prudential’s gift will provide long-needed and often overlooked aid and support persistence of those most vulnerable in our community.” 

According to a press release, Prudential Financial will also provide HBCU majors with paid internships and free educational services to help them improve their financial literacy. 

“Over 75% of students at HBCUs are considered low-income, relying on Pell Grants to meet their college expenses. However, for many of these students, these grants are not enough,” added Mark A. Brown, Executive Director of Student Freedom Initiative. 

The Student Freedom Initiative’s HELPS Program will be accessible to students starting in Spring 2022.

Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.