Robert F. Smith’s Student Freedom Initiative is working to ensure more minority college students are able to cross the stage despite their financial background.

The initiative has been awarded a $1.1 million grant by the Capital One Foundation to expand the HELPS (Handling Everyday Life Problems for Students) Program, according to a press release shared with AfroTech.

Thanks to the new partnership, over 2,000 more students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) can receive grants of up to $500 per semester — a maximum amount of $4,000 for their undergraduate studies. The funds will help cover any emergency “that places their continued enrollment and graduation at moderate to high risk.”

“The HELPS Program has become a critical pillar of the holistic support that Student Freedom Initiative offers students at HBCUs and MSIs,” Robert F. Smith, Founder and Board Chairman of Student Freedom Initiative, and Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners said in a statement, per the press release. 

He continued: “Nearly 60% of students say that they lack adequate access to food or housing, which are only a few of the barriers jeopardizing their ability to graduate. I am thankful for the support of the Capital One Foundation in ensuring that we are able to meet the growing needs of students at HBCUs and other MSIs around the country.”

The ten additional colleges and universities are listed below:

  1. California State University – Long Beach (CA)

  2. University of California – Riverside (CA)

  3. Dillard University (LA)

  4. Xavier University (LA)

  5. Bowie State University (MD)

  6. University of Maryland – Eastern Shore (MD)

  7. Hampton University (VA)

  8. Norfolk State University (VA)

  9. Virginia State University (VA)

  10. Virginia Union University (VA)

The partnership took SFI’s impact from 20 public and private institutions across 10 states to 30 institutions across 14 states.

Shena Ashley, President of the Capital One Foundation shares a statement:

“The Capital One Foundation is excited to partner with Student Freedom Initiative’s HELPS Program to further financial stability and college persistence for students at Minority-Serving Institutions,” she said. “Through this support for emergency needs, we are proud to help remove financial barriers so that students can focus on their academic experience and fully benefit from the high-quality institutions they attend.”

What are examples of what SFI considers the emergency funding can go toward?

  • Transportation
  • IT software and hardware
  • Medical care
  • Food security
  • Temporary housing and utilities
  • Safety-related purchases among others

Students can apply for HELPS grants here.