Robert Smith Launches New Nonprofit That Aims to Ease Student Debt at HBCUs

A year ago, Robert F. Smith, a billionaire who is CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a software and technology investment firm, gave the commencement speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He stunned the graduating class with the announcement that he would pay off all their student debt, which amounted to $34 million.

Now Smith has launched a new initiative to address the student debt crisis in the Black community. The Student Freedom Initiative is a nonprofit organization established with a $50 million grant from the Fund II Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Smith. He hopes to raise another $500 million to support the effort.

The Student Freedom Initiative initially will help STEM students at 11 historically Black colleges and universities. The program will not eliminate all student debt but will offer students at these schools loans at far lower rates and with easier repayment terms.

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