Graduation season is a time for students to celebrate their academic accomplishments as they enter a new chapter in their lives. However, a selection of Spelman College graduates can also celebrate as debt-free graduates thanks to a private equity mogul.
With the help of Frank Baker, co-founder and managing partner of private equity firm Siris Capital, and his wife Laura Day Baker — around 50 Spelman College seniors have had their tuition balances wiped clean, according to a press release.
Frank Baker of Siris and Laura Day Baker to pay remaining tuition for nearly 50 Spelman College seniors and announced a $1M gift toward the establishment of a scholarship to ensure future graduating seniors have the financial resources to graduate. https://t.co/hoSeGdA3ot pic.twitter.com/Xo6veARwDB
— Spelman College (@SpelmanCollege) May 21, 2020
The Bakers also established a $1 million scholarship to help future graduates of the all-woman HBCU, according to The Root.
“We are all aware of the headwinds that people of color — especially women — face in our country, the challenges of which are made even more apparent by the economic and health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Frank and Laura, interior designer and philanthropist, said in a statement.
“We hope that this gift will help lessen their financial burden as they start this promising next chapter in their lives and encourage them to persevere over life’s challenges,” they continued.
Last year, Robert Smith, the wealthiest Black man in America, shocked the country by pledging to pay off the student loans of the entire 2019 class of Morehouse College, totaling out to $34 million, according to CNN.
This year, Baker accepted the challenge by helping out a group of Spelman women.
“Robert was fortunate enough to go to Cornell and Columbia and him giving to Morehouse was a nod to the recognition that the majority of African-Americans going to college are graduating from historically black institutions,” said Baker in an interview. “We need to make sure these schools continue to be viable. We are all part of the same community. It doesn’t matter if I went to the school or not.”
The Bakers’ $250,000 donation to the group of 2020 Spelman graduates is a small token of appreciation to show their support to those whose financial circumstances stand between them earning their degrees.
“The people who my heart really goes out to are women in their senior year who can’t afford it anymore and have to drop out,” Baker told Forbes. “These are the most resilient people because if they run out of money their senior year, you know they were out of money their sophomore year and just made it work.”
Forbes reports Baker is committed to donating no less than $1 million for the next three years to help future Spelman seniors in similar financial situations.
“These are the women we need in the workforce,” Baker said. “They are going to make a difference.”