Steve Harvey and Billionaire Robert F. Smith Team Up to Help HBCU Students Enjoy More ‘Freedom’


Steve harvey has always had a soft spot for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Today, the acclaimed comedian, TV show host, entrepreneur and philanthropist takes his long-standing passion to new heights and has officially committed as a strategic partner with the Student Freedom Initiative.

Founded and led by a technology investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith, a billionaire praised by Forbes as the richest black person in America, the Student Freedom Initiative provides a wide range of resources to help higher education students attending institutions serving minorities (MSI), including HBCUs, achieve professional, personal and financial freedom. .

Harveys participation more than triples the number of schools participating in the Student Freedom Initiative, from 9 to 29, reaching nearly 80,500 students.

“Access to quality and affordable higher education is one of the most important steps our community can take to achieve racial equity,” said Harvey, a former comedian and longtime game show host. . Family quarrel.

“My team and I are proud to support the work of Robert F. Smith and the Student Freedom Initiative to highlight the exceptional work being done by HBCUs and other MSIs in raising the social and economic mobility of our students in order to realize their greatest potential. “

The Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation is an organization he shares with his wife and is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of responsible leaders by providing educational enrichment, mentorship, life-transforming skills and service initiatives. global.

The Student Freedom Initiative team expressed its enthusiasm for the Harvey’s decision to put their fame and expertise at the service of their passionate philanthropic project.

“We are delighted to welcome the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation in support of our essential mission of advancing the narrative surrounding institutions serving minorities and the students they support,” said Smith, best known for having made headlines in 2019 when he donated $ 34 million to Atlanta’s Black Morehouse College paid off student debt for the entire class, a total of 400 students.

“Together, we look forward to sharing and promoting the extraordinary talent of our students in a competitive global economy. The increase in the number of HBCUs participating in the Student Freedom Initiative program and the partnership with the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation are two major steps to close the wealth gap and create a lasting impact on the entire HBCU and MSI ecosystem .

A feature of the Student Freedom Initiative is to provide an alternative source of funding that helps students and their family members avoid taking out student loans, such as Parent PLUS Loans, which are unsubsidized federal loans with low rates. extremely high interest and fees.

A growing body of research confirms that students of color, especially black students, are burdened with disproportionate and overwhelming levels of student debt. For example, more than 70 percent of black students take on debt to pay for college, compared to 56 percent of white students, according to the American Association of University Women. The Brooking Institute finds that the disparity between blacks and whites in student loan debt more than tripled after graduation, with black college graduates owing $ 7,400 more on average than their white peers, often hurting their solvency, their ability to save money or build wealth.

Currently, the Student Freedom Initiative is offering majors in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to an initial cohort of HBCUs to apply for grants of up to $ 20,000 per academic year to pay for their education, thereby filling the gaps. funding gaps that persist after receiving any other financial assistance. Students are encouraged to return the money they owe to the pay-as-you-go fund for the benefit of future students in need, but only after graduation and working. The reimbursement amount is based solely on their income. The association also helps give HBCU students a head start in their careers through a partnership with the program, connecting them with training resources and internship and employment opportunities at Fortune 500 companies.

Finally, through its strategic partnership with Cisco and AVC Technologies / Computex, the Student Freedom Initiative is also providing pro bono technology infrastructure upgrades to a number of HBCU campuses, with the goal of protecting them against the threat of potential cybersecurity attacks, much like the ransomware attack that recently crippled Howard University.

A strategic partnership for culture

Executive Director of the Student Freedom Initiative Marc Brun says the partnership with Harveys builds on the progress the nonprofit has made over the past year and a half, building a scalable infrastructure and establishing strategic partnerships to increase the resilience of MSI institutions and the global competitiveness of their students. “Now, in our second year, we look forward to continuing to increase the number of institutions participating in our program to other institutions serving minorities and to serving more students,” said Brown, a former member of the ‘Black Tuskegee University in Alabama.

“We are also grateful to the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation for their leadership and for joining us in this adventure. Harvey says he, too, is excited about the development of the new partnership: “We look forward to more partners joining us in supporting what started with Morehouse College, but now encompasses the entire ecosystem that seeks to obtain a sustainable and scalable solution, ”he said. .

Selected institutions include Alabama A&M University, Benedict College, Bennett College, Bowie State University, Dillard University, Fisk University, Interdenominational Theological Center, Jackson State University, Jarvis Christian College, Lemoyne-Owen College, Miles College, Morris College, Norfolk State University , Shaw University, Texas College, Texas Southern University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, University of the Virgin Islands, Virginia Union University, and Voorhees College.

For more details on the Student Freedom Initiative, visit

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