Robert F. Smith aims to ease debt for students at historically black colleges

The Student Freedom Initiative is set to launch in fall 2021 at 11 HBCUs

Robert F. Smith, the CEO of Vista Equity Partners, is continuing to help lighten the burden of college debt for students at historically black colleges and universities.

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The billionaire has launched a nonprofit called the Student Freedom Initiative, Time magazine reported Tuesday.

Last year, Smith promised to pay off the student debt of Morehouse College’s class of 2019. In September, he donated $34 million, making good on his promise.

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His new program is an attempt to “create a more sustainable model for thousands more students” and will get started in the fall of 2021, Time reported.

“I think it’s important that we do these things at scale and en masse because that’s how you lift up entire communities,” Smith told Time. “Of course, we all like the great one story, but I want thousands of these stories. And I want thousands of Robert Smiths out there who are actually looking to do some things in fields that are exciting to them and are giving back.”

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According to the magazine, the Student Freedom Initiative will start at 11 HBCUs that haven’t been finalized yet. The program will allow STEM students in their last two years of college to take advantage of more flexible, “lower-risk” loan alternatives as opposed to private students loans with high interest.

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Fund II Foundation -- which is led by Smith -- gave a $50 million grant to the Student Freedom Initiative.

The program hopes to include 5,000 new students each year and hopes to raise $500 million by October on top of the Fund II Foundation grant in order to become “self-sustaining,” Time reported.

According to Forbes, Smith is estimated to be worth $5 billion.

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