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STUDENT FREEDOM INITIATIVE


Student Freedom Initiative logoOverview

Student Freedom Initiative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that will launch its program at Tuskegee University and several other HBCUs in fall 2021. With an aim to be a catalyst for generational change, Student Freedom Initiative works with schools, students and its partners to lift up TU graduates.

“The Initiative will be specifically tailored to our students’ needs, giving them access to a host of new and interesting opportunities,” said interim Tuskegee President Dr. Charlotte Morris.

Student Freedom Initiative’s program has four main components to support students:

  • Tutoring and mentoring programs designed in cooperation with Tuskegee to tailor support to TU students
  • Paid internships via internX
  • Capacity building between schools and students
  • An income-contingent funding alternative for eligible students through the Student Freedom Agreement

Through these programs, Student Freedom Initiative hopes to help students excel in their undergraduate degrees, as well as provide more opportunities for them to build robust career paths after graduation. It’s an evidence-based and student-centric program designed to make lasting, generational change for minority students.

  

Who Can Participate in the Student Freedom Initiative?

While all Tuskegee students can participate in Student Freedom Initiative tutoring, mentoring, and internships as well as benefit from the capacity-building programs, the Student Freedom Agreement funding alternative is designed for juniors and seniors majoring in STEM programs. At Tuskegee, qualifying STEM majors include:

  • Computer Science and Information Technology
  • Computer Science-Information Systems
  • Computer Science
  • Aerospace Science Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

To be “Eligible” to apply for funding from the Student Freedom Agreement, your school must be a participant in the Student Freedom Initiative program, you need to have a valid Social Security Number (SSN), and you must meet all of the following criteria immediately prior to a disbursement (as determined and confirmed by your school): 

  • School- approved FAFSA or acceptable alternative state aid application; 
  • Rising junior or senior (by credit hours);
  • Enrolled full-time for the coming academic term* (unless you are granted an exception because you require less than full-time enrollment to complete your bachelor’s degree in your final year of study); 
  • Majoring in approved Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) degree-seeking program; and 
  • Meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), as defined by your institution.

Please note that you are ineligible if you are in the United States with a non-immigrant visa.

Please refer to the Student Freedom Initiative’s website for the latest information.

*Exception available if less than full-time coursework is required for degree completion in final year.

  

How Does the Student Freedom Agreement Work?

The Student Freedom Agreement is the income-contingent funding alternative that is one part of Student Freedom Initiative’s programs. The Student Freedom Agreement is meant as an income-based repayment alternative to high-cost, fixed payment debt obligations that could negatively impact a student’s career opportunities. Geared toward rising junior and senior STEM majors (by credit), the Student Freedom Agreement is not meant to replace other sources of state or federal funding, or scholarships and work-study programs. The Student Freedom Agreement is available to provide funds up to $20,000 per year (max $40,000 total funding) to cover a student’s educational expenses. You should always work with your financial aid advisor to see if the Student Freedom Agreement is right for your needs.

By not sacrificing economic freedom by being tied into high-cost loans, the Student Freedom Agreement hopes to enable lasting, generational change. Careers can change and grow to reflect the students’ needs and the changing face of the workforce, as a result of not being saddled with unmanageable loan debt.

  

History of the Student Freedom Initiative

The initial idea for the Student Freedom Initiative actually began at Morehouse College. Inspired by philanthropist and entrepreneur Robert F. Smith’s $34 million gift to pay off the student loan debt of the 2019 graduating class at Morehouse College. The idea grew to create lasting, generational change to ensure that student success could be fostered and student loan debt wasn’t impacting promising career paths.

The Student Freedom Initiative was initially funded by two major donations. Robert F. Smith, along with the Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is founding director and President, each donated $50 million in 2020. Using the $100 million endowment, Student Freedom Initiative has been able to launch and grow, with the support of a growing number of partner organizations,  including:

The Initiative will launch at nine HBCUs for the 2021-2022 academic year. As a nonprofit organization, Student Freedom Agreement repayments will feed back into funding additional students, creating a self-sustaining funding source for generations of students to follow.

  
To apply for the Student Freedom Initiative, and to learn more,
click here to visit the program’s website.