Student Freedom Initiative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission to provide education and career services to all students in the form of mentoring and tutoring as well as paid internships and targeted capacity-building. It also provides an income-contingent funding alternative for eligible juniors and seniors in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) majors. With a focus on students at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and HBCUs, including students at Hampton University, Student Freedom Initiative will launch in the fall of 2021.
“Hampton University is pleased to take part in the Student Freedom Initiative during the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year,” noted Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey. “We are proud to be one of the HBCUs participating in the launch of the Student Freedom Initiative, which offers an affordable funding alternative to students, specifically for STEM majors in their junior and senior years. We feel the program’s core values of being student-centric, evidence-based and holistic align well with our mission to produce students that set THE Standard of Excellence.”
The aim of Student Freedom Initiative is to offer students the opportunity to gain skills and experience needed to achieve career success. Hampton students can take advantage of Student Freedom Initiative comprehensive success programs, and qualified junior and senior STEM-majors can subsidize their educational expenses with an income-contingent funding arrangement known as a “Student Freedom Agreement.” The Student Freedom Agreement serves as an alternative to high-cost, fixed payment debt obligations that can impact students’ post-graduate career choices.
The student-centered Initiative is much more than just a funding source, however — it’s a holistic and evidence-based program intended to support students throughout the course of their bachelor’s degrees and beyond. In order to better prepare students for successful careers after graduation, Student Freedom Initiative provides:
These comprehensive core programs of Student Freedom Initiative are designed to inspire students’ growth as scholars during their college years and to enhance opportunities for their careers beyond graduation.
While the Student Freedom Initiative tutoring, mentoring, internship and capacity-building programs are available to all applicable students. The funding alternative is designed for eligible junior and seniors. The Student Freedom Agreement is intended for use by rising junior and senior (by credit) STEM-major students at Student Freedom Initiative-participating institutions. At Hampton University, eligible Student Freedom Agreement students include those majoring in:
To be eligible for funds through a Student Freedom Agreement, applicants must have a school approved FAFSA application (or acceptable state alternative) and must also be meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) as defined by Hampton University. They must also have a valid Social Security Number (SSN). For full eligibility details, please review the full Student Freedom Initiative Details and Frequently Asked Questions on Student Freedom Initiative's Website.
The Student Freedom Agreement is designed to help cover up to $20,000 per academic year of a student’s remaining costs of college attendance, and to act as an alternative to Parent PLUS loans and high-interest private student loans. The Student Freedom Agreement is not intended to replace other forms of scholarships or financial aid, including state or aid from institutions, or any work-study programs or Federal Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans. Students should work with their financial aid counselor to explore all options, and should understand that the Student Freedom Agreement may not be the best choice for their particular needs.
The brainchild of philanthropist and entrepreneur Robert F. Smith, the Initiative grew to life after his $34 million gift to pay off the student loan debt of the 2019 graduating class at Morehouse College, and that of their parents. Student Freedom Initiative steps in to help graduates achieve greatness after graduation without the disproportionate personal debt that many students of color take on.
Robert F. Smith, along with the Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is founding director and President, each donated $50 million to create Student Freedom Initiative. Beginning with this $100 million initial endowment, and with the support of a growing number of partner organizations including the Education Finance Institute, the Jain Family Institute, MDRC, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, the UNCF and Vista Equity Partners, the Initiative will launch at nine HBCUs in the fall of 2021. As a nonprofit organization, student repayments will feed back into the Initiative, creating a self-sustaining funding source for generations of students to follow.
To apply for Student Freedom Initiative, and to learn more, visit Student Freedom Initiative's Website.