Investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith is advancing his efforts to financially empower students at historically Black colleges and universities, and he’s teaming up with media mogul Steve Harvey and his wife Marjorie to support HBCU scholars. The Harveys have joined Smith’s Student Freedom Initiative, which aims to eradicate barriers standing in the way of economic mobility and change the narrative surrounding the racial wealth gap.
Research shows students who attend HBCUs throughout the country are disproportionately affected by the burdens of student loans. The United Negro College Fund reported that students who attend historically Black colleges and universities borrow loans at higher rates and graduate with higher debt than those who attend non-HBCUs.
The weight of student loans often lingers and is a detriment to many individuals trying to cultivate financial stability. Aware of the disparities, Smith created the Student Freedom Initiative to address historic social and economic inequities and close the racial wealth gap by providing African American students with grants and other enrichment opportunities.
Through their philanthropic foundation—The Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation—the Harveys will lead a collaborative strategic partnership with the Student Freedom Initiative. Under the pact, they will continue to amplify the importance of HBCUs, further advocacy efforts around addressing the racial wealth gap and enlist partners who can assist in evoking transformative change. “Access to quality, affordable higher education is one of the most important steps our community can take towards achieving racial equity,” Steve Harvey said in a statement. “Our foundation is proud to support the work of Robert F. Smith and the Student Freedom Initiative to highlight the outstanding job done by HBCUs and other MSIs to elevate the social and economic mobility of our students to achieve their greatest potential via this enduring, scalable solution.” Smith added he’s looking forward to joining forces with the organization to highlight the “extraordinary talent of students in a competitive global economy.”
News about the partnership comes after Smith teamed up with the digital money management company Goalsetter to equip Black and Latinx youth with the tools needed to cultivate generational wealth and introduce them to the stock market.