A year after billionaire Robert F. Smith vowed to eliminate the student loan debt for Morehouse College’s entire 2019 graduating class, other Black business leaders are following suit. Frank Baker, founder and managing partner of the private equity company Siris, and his wife interior designer Laura Day Baker recently announced the creation of a $1 million scholarship fund for Spelman College graduates.
The Bakers have led philanthropic efforts designed to support underserved communities. The fund that the couple started will cover the spring tuition and other expenses for nearly 50 students who are a part of Spelman’s 2020 graduating class and other graduates over the next three years. The initiative was unveiled at Spelman’s virtual Senior Salute celebration.
“We are all aware of the headwinds that people of color, especially women, face in our country, the challenges of which are made even more apparent by the economic and health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” The Bakers said in a statement. “We believe it is critical that talented women finish college and confidently enter – free of undue financial stress – the initial stage of their professional careers. We hope that this gift will help lessen their financial burden as they start this promising next chapter in their lives and encourage them to persevere over life’s challenges.”
Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., who serves as Spelman College’s president, says members of the institution’s community are grateful for the act of generosity displayed by the couple; especially in the midst of a public health crisis. “Our graduates are taking their first steps into adulthood during uncertain times, which makes a gift intended to give them a better chance to build a financial foundation even more important,” she said.
Scholarship funds like the one launched by the Bakers will be instrumental in helping students lay the groundwork for financial success. According to a study released by the United Negro College Fund, students who attend HBCUs graduate with more debt than students from other colleges and universities throughout the country.