Billionaire Robert F. Smith Aims to Ease HBCU Student Loan Debt

Robert F. Smith/Vista Equity Partners
Robert F. Smith/Vista Equity Partners

By Ashley Moss
Staff Writer

Robert F. Smith, the billionaire who paid off the entire student loan debt for the Morehouse College class of 2019, is working to offer HBCU students an alternative way to pay for their higher education.

Starting in the Fall of 2021, eligible junior and senior STEM majors will benefit from the Student Freedom Initiative, a nonprofit aimed at addressing the disproportionate loan burden on Black students. The program will create more choices for students whose career options or further educational opportunities might be limited by heavy student debt.

The Student Freedom Initiative will also offer paid internships in a student’s area of study, tutoring/mentorships, and targeted HBCU capacity building.

“Each year, thousands of black graduates from HBCUs across America enter the workforce with a crushing debt burden that stunts future decisions and prevents opportunities and choices,” said Smith, who is also the Board Chair of the Student Freedom Initiative.

The selected institutions include Claflin University, Clark Atlanta University, Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Morehouse College, Prairie View A&M University, Tougaloo College, Tuskegee University, and Xavier University of Louisiana.