Impact Investors partner with Robert F. Smith’s Student Freedom Initiative to Select Recipients
“In order to educate and train the next generation of diverse leaders and innovators, institutions must have access to an affordable education, and they must be surrounded by a thriving community,“ said Robert F. Smith, founder and chairman of Student Freedom Initiative.
“Through Steinbridge’s commitment, these communities will have the resources to transform underutilized space to help to attract and retain talent while helping to make a college education affordable for students.”
Tawan Davis is the founder and CEO of the impact investment firm Steinbridge Group. He said he looks forward to partnering to support HBCUs in various ways. As part of the initiative, Steinbridge said it plans to collaborate with partner HBCUs “to make it possible for graduates to become homeowners, building wealth in communities that are at risk of displacement due to the impacts of gentrification in transitioning neighborhoods,” according to a firm statement.
Steinbridge and SFI will review interested HBCUs and MSIs and select those that will receive investments toward development efforts. Eligibility criteria include land ownership within the community suitable for economic and community development, the capacity to execute an expansive development project, and leadership positioned to galvanize the initiative, according to Steinbridge.
Keith B. Shoates, chief operating officer of the Student Freedom Initiative, added that this collaboration also addresses the enormous student loan debt burden, as Black students typically carry more than twice as much in student debt as their white peers. A UNCF report also shows that HBCU students borrow student loans at higher rates and, consequently, graduate with substantially higher debt than their peers at non-HBCUs.
“A portion of the proceeds of the developments will support the Student Freedom Agreement fund, SFI’s affordable student loan option. Notably, the Student Freedom Fund will ultimately become an Endowment Without Walls for all SFI partners,” Shoates stated.
While this significant investment focuses on housing in the surrunding community, social media has shone a light in recent years on inadequate and outdated student housing at some of the nation’s HBCU campuses.
“We fully understand this does not address the totality of the requests from our HBCU community, but we’re working on student housing challenges they’ve identified,” Shoates told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“We’re collecting requests from our member institutions, and we’re already working on a solution.”
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Source: Black Enterprise