Robert F. Smith is backing yet another initiative that aims to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The billionaire and his non-profit, Student Freedom Initiative, has teamed up with Prudential Financial to financially assist HBCU students, according to Black News. The new program, powered by the collaborative effort, is named Handling Everyday Life Problems for Students (HELPS).

“Student Freedom Initiative applauds the leadership of Prudential Financial and their support for our shared mission of eliminating barriers of access for underserved communities,” Smith said. “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.”

Under the three-year pilot program, Prudential Financial is awarding $1.8 million in micro-grants to HBCU students “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,” according to the outlet.

“One HBCU president told us about a student who was unable to fully participate on camera for class – as required – due to a damaged computer, which ultimately impacted that student’s grades,” said executive director of Student Freedom Initiative Mark A. Brown.

HELPS Program

“Another president described always having to keep petty cash in their office to help students, including once giving a student $300 to cover an unexpected expense,” said Brown. “That student later told the president that they likely would not have graduated without that $300. So, the work that we’re doing through this partnership is impactful and helping to contribute to the long-term success of these talented and deserving students.”

Students, along with their families, will also be offered pro bono services and paid internships that promote financial literacy.

The Launch Date

HELPS will launch during the spring 2022 academic year at participating HBCUs.

To learn more about the program, click here.