Billionaire philanthropist and investor Robert F. Smith established the Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) to aid Black students attending Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and offer them more career choices without dealing with the disproportionate burden of college debt.
Now Smith’s initiative is receiving financial assistance from networking giant Cisco through a $150 million donation that will support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
According to Fast Company, the funding will be divided up between $100 million — which will be allocated toward networking, security and collaboration technologies to aid in advancements of HBCUs’ technology infrastructure and cybersecurity systems.
The remaining $50 million will serve as an anchor investment for the initiative to finance the college educations of 500 HBCU students each year for the next four years.
“We are thrilled to welcome Cisco and AVC Technologies as strategic partners for SFI in addressing the digital divide faced by our HBCUs,” Robert F. Smith said in an announcement. “Their expertise and generosity will ensure that HBCUs are secure and robust institutions that empower Black students. And Cisco’s added financial commitment to students, making them the first anchor corporate partner of SFI, will help liberate students from crushing debt and allow them to make their own life choices. Their gift to SFI’s endowment is a call to action to other corporate leaders to join our cause.”
The SFI was originally funded by Smith through a $50 million anchor investment in an effort to provide income-contingent funding to Black students and help cover the fees of their costly college education.
Smith — who’s also founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners — made news headlines worldwide back in 2019 after he announced that he’d be paying off all the student loans for the entire graduating class of Morehouse College.
Now the new funds for his latest student-focused project will help the initiative move closer toward its goal to form a $450 million endowment that has the capacity to support the education expenses of 4,500 Black students.
For more information about the Student Freedom Initiative, click here.