Florida A&M University is furthering its efforts to make higher education equitable and accessible. Thanks to a generous gift, the HBCU will be able to have a wider impact. The institution has received a $1.2 million endowment from philanthropists Frank and Laura Baker.
The donation will go towards creating an initiative called the Frank and Laura Baker Graduation Fund. It’s designed to alleviate financial burdens for underserved scholars to attain their degrees within four years. Research conducted by the United Negro College Fund revealed that students who attend historically Black colleges and universities have higher levels of unmet financial needs and graduate with significantly higher debt than those who attend other schools. Many students have had to drop out of school due to issues concerning affordability.
Aware of the disparities, the Bakers launched the fund to help cover outstanding account balances for students in need. Frank—who co-founded the private equity firm Siris—says financial burdens shouldn’t be a detriment to educational attainment.
“In 2020, we opened a Siris office in Florida, and as part of that, we believed it was important to invest in our new community,” he shared in a statement. “Through our conversations with FAMU, we learned there are extremely capable students who aren’t able to graduate in four years solely due to limited financial resources. We also discovered that the four-year graduation rate is a key metric in determining the amount of funding FAMU receives from the State of Florida. This made our ‘investment’ decision pretty easy—FAMU students in the workforce sooner and potentially unlocking more state funding.”
Dr. Larry Robinson, who serves as FAMU’s President, added the gift “will encourage our students to finish in a timely manner and allow them to move forward less burdened by debt to the University.” The fund will be overseen by the Office of Student Success and Strategic Initiatives and the FAMU Office of University Advancement.