Student Freedom Initiative
Student Freedom Initiative is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization that affords students attending Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) the freedom to make their own professional and life choices. Initially, the program is focused on students majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with the goal of expanding over time. This exciting new initiative aims to relieve students at Xavier University of Louisiana, and other like-minded schools, from the crushing debt of student loans, while also providing support and tools that they need to succeed in all paths of their lives.
The program is set to launch in the fall of 2021, and eligible HBCU students may be offered an income-contingent funding alternative to Parent PLUS and private educational loan programs. However, as student success is not based solely on financial aid, Xavier University of Louisiana and Student Freedom Initiative have collaborated to provide other opportunities to support student efforts, including:
- Tutoring, mentoring and other support services
- Internships matched to student interests
- Targeted institutional capacity-building support, such as discounted technology
Student Freedom Agreement Eligibility
Student Freedom Initiative student support services, such as mentioning, internships and tutoring, will be open to all students at Xavier University of Louisiana regardless of undergraduate standings. However, the Student Freedom Agreement, the Student Freedom Initiative's income-contingent funding alternative, is initially limited to prospective juniors and seniors, as determined by credit hour, majoring in STEM programs.
The administration at Xavier University of Louisiana, in collaboration with Student Freedom Initiative, has approved the following majors for participation in the Initiative’s Student Freedom Agreement:
- Biology Pre-Medicine
- Chemistry (A.C.S. Certified)
- Chemistry Pre-Pharmacy
- Chemistry Pre-Professional
- Computer Information Systems
- Computer Science
- Dual Degree Biomedical Engineering
- Dual Degree in Chemical Engineering
- Dual Degree Chemistry Pre-Pharmacy
- Dual Degree in Civil Engineering
- Dual Degree in Computer Engineering
- Dual Degree in Electrical Engineering
- Dual Degree in Environmental Engineering
- Dual Degree in Mechanical Engineering
- Statistics and Biostatistics Accelerated
To be “Eligible” to apply for funding from us, your school must be a participant in the Student Freedom Initiative program, you must 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 we grant 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.
*Exception available if less than full-time coursework is required for degree completion in final year.
How the Student Freedom Agreement Works
STEM students that meet the aforementioned qualifications can begin to apply for financial assistance through Student Freedom Initiative for the fall 2021 semester. Under the Student Freedom Agreement, students who accept the funding will pledge to make monthly payments once they graduate from college for a maximum of 20 years. The amount being paid back to the program is income-based and will rise and fall based on a participant’s earnings. All funds paid back to Student Freedom Initiative by the graduates will be recycled back into the program and used by future students.
While the Student Freedom Agreement can positively contribute to a student’s overall financial aid package, it should only be considered to be a portion. The Agreement is not intended to replace any state or institutional aid or any federal grants, work-study, or Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans. Ideally, the Student Freedom Agreement aims to cover the remaining costs of a student’s educational expenses after other aid sources have been exhausted. Furthermore, it is intended to be an alternative financing option to Parent PLUS loans and high-interest private student loans and cannot exceed the total cost of attendance, as defined by Xavier University of Louisiana’s financial aid office.
With all this in mind, the Student Freedom Agreement might not be the best financial aid option for every student. Students of Xavier University of Louisiana should consult their financial aid counselors to better understand the Agreement and other financial aid alternatives. Counselors should be able to help students make informed decisions on what option is in their best interests.
For more information on the terms of the Student Freedom Agreement and the application process, please visit Student Freedom Initiative’s website. Students interested in applying for a Student Freedom Agreement should also carefully read all the documents provided by Student Freedom Initiative during the application and approval process, as they will contain important information about the terms of the Student Freedom Agreement.
History of Student Freedom Initiative
Student Freedom Initiative was envisioned by Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, after his commencement address at Morehouse College with the ultimate goal of addressing the student loan debt that often disproportionately burdens African American students. The Student Freedom Initiative is designed to be a “pay it forward” program. Gifts from donors and payments made by graduates would help to fuel the self-sustaining program year after year, supporting the next generation of students rather than allowing investors to profit from those least able to afford it.
Yet, the program goes beyond providing an income-contingent funding alternative. Smith challenged the program to also provide holistic student support services and assistance for modernizing the MSI/HBCU infrastructure.
Under the guidance of Dr. Reynold Verret, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, and the presidents of a number of other HBCUs, as well as through the help of like-minded organizations and recognized experts, Smith’s vision was achieved, and Student Freedom Initiative was born.
- Education Finance Institute
- Fund II Foundation with internX
- Jain Family Institute
- Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP
- Vista Equity Partners
The nonprofit public charity has received a significant amount of funding, which has made this program possible. Among some of the most notable donations include Smith’s personal gift of $50 million, as well as an initial donation of $50 million from the Fund II Foundation, which is a charitable organization committed to advancing social change, of which Smith is founding director and President. These gifts will allow the Student Freedom Initiative to support 500 STEM juniors and seniors per year, every year, for the entire future of the program.
Learn more about Student Freedom Initiative and stay up-to-date on all developments on Student Freedom Initiative website.