Black Billionaire Robert F. Smith’s Nonprofit Partners

Nationwide — According to the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, more than 75 percent of students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are considered low-income, relying heavily on Pell Grants to meet their college expenses. However, a growing body of research confirms that for many of these students, those grants are not enough.

Black Billionaire Robert F. Smith’s Nonprofit Partners with Prudential Financial to Help HBCU Students with Their Expenses

their financial instability is also often compounded by unforeseen emergency expenses that when left unaddressed, threaten to derail their college careers altogether. Add to that, in order to secure financial support many of these students are often required to sign complex promissory notes that could indebt them well into their adult lives, yet many lack the fundamental financial literacy needed to make informed financial decisions. A new partnership between Black billionaire Robert F. Smith’s nonprofit Student Freedom Initiative and Prudential Financial is sending help their way, both literally and figuratively.

They’re launching the Handling Everyday Life Problems for Students (a.k.a HELPS) program during the spring 2022 academic year at participating HBCUs. Prudential is providing $1.8 million in microgrants to HBCU students in an effort to accelerate economic mobility and close the financial divide, furthering Student Freedom Initiative and Prudential’s shared commitment to helping close the racial wealth gap. Prudential will also provide paid internships and pro bono services to help improve financial literacy among HBCU students and their families.

“Student Freedom Initiative applauds the leadership of Prudential Financial and their support for our shared mission of eliminating barriers of access for underserved communities,” says chairman Smith, who founded the nonprofit in 2020, shortly after he famously snagged headlines by paying off the educational debt for the entire 2019 graduating class of Atlanta’s historically Black Morehouse College. “By enabling the launch of the HELPS Program, a vital component of our work is to address the holistic needs of HBCU students and families, Prudential’s gift will provide long-needed and often overlooked aid and support persistence of those most vulnerable in our community.”

Black Billionaire Robert F. Smith’s Nonprofit Partners Prudential

Student Freedom Initiative Executive Director Mark A. Brown says the HELPS program will help empower financially vulnerable students and equip them with the resources they need to address unexpected, one-time expenses, which research has shown disproportionately adversely impacts Black students.