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Student Freedom Initiative Announces $1.1 Million Grant from the Capital One Foundation to Expand HELPS (Handling Everyday Life Problems for Students) Program
[November 30, 2022]

Student Freedom Initiative Announces $1.1 Million Grant from the Capital One Foundation to Expand HELPS (Handling Everyday Life Problems for Students) Program

Today, Student Freedom Initiative ("SFI") and the Capital One Foundation in partnership with Capital One ("Capital One") announced the expansion of the HELPS (Handling Everyday Life Problems for Students) Program.

The HELPS Program provides grants of up to $500 per semester to students dealing with an emergency that places their continued enrollment and graduation at moderate to high risk. With the support of the Capital One Foundation's $1.1 million grant, SFI will have the capacity to offer HELPS funding to over 2,000 additional students at ten colleges and universities in the SFI ecosystem:

  • California State University - Long Beach (CA)
  • University of California ­- Riverside (CA)
  • Dillard University (LA)
  • Xavier University (LA)
  • Bowie State University (MD)
  • University of Maryland - Eastern Shore (MD)
  • Hampton University (VA)
  • Norfolk State University (VA)
  • Virginia State University (VA)
  • Virginia Union University (VA)

This partnership will increase student persistence toward obtaining a degree at qualifying Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). This expansion increases the reach of the program from 20 public and private institutions across 10 states to 30 institutions across 14 states.

"The HELPS Program has become a critical pillar of the holistic support that Student Freedom Initiative offers students at HBCUs and MSIs," said Robert F. Smith, Founder and Board Chairman of Student Freedom Initiative, and Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. "Nearly 60% of students say that they lack adequate access to food or housing, which are only a few of the barriers jeopardizing their ability to graduate. I am thankful for the support of the Capital One Foundation in ensuring that we are able to meet the growing needs of students at HBCUs and other MSIs around the country."

Over the course of their undergraduate studies, students are eligible to receive a maximum amount of $4,000. SFI defines an emergency as an unexpected, one-time expense associated with the immediate risk to the student's health, life, property, or enrollment status. These emergencies include but are not limited to transportation, IT software and hardware, medical care, food security, temporary housing and utilities, and safety-related purchases among others. Students can apply for grants on the official SFI website.

"The Capital One Foundation is excited to partner with Student Freedom Initiative's HELPS Program to further financial stability and college persistence for students at Minority-Serving Institutions," said Shena Ashley, President of the Capital One Foundation. "Through this support for emergency needs, we are proud to help remove financial barriers so that students can focus on their academic experience and fully benefit from the high-quality institutions they attend."

About Student Freedom Initiative

A single purpose nonprofit organization, Student Freedom Initiative aims to reduce the wealth gap through the lens of education. This is achieved by providing a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choices for students attending Minority Serving Institutions ("MSIs") by increasing their social and economic mobility using a student centric, evidence based, holistic, and collaborative approach. Initially focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Student Freedom Initiative enables mobility through four transformational components: (1) Student Freedom Fund as an income contingent alternative to Parent Plus loans, (2) Internships and industry-driven certifications, (3) Tutoring/Mentorships/Other Services, and (4) Targeted HBCU Capacity Building (e.g., access to affordable broadband, strengthening endowment governance and risk adjusted returns, workforce development in clean energy). Student Freedom Initiative collaborates with community-based organizations, businesses, and governmental entities through public-private partnerships to make sustainable, systemic changes to support the entire HBCU ecosystem.

To date, Student Freedom Initiative has received generous contributions from Robert F. Smith, Fund 2 Foundation, Cisco, Jane Street, Prudential, First Republic, and the Walmart Foundation. The program has also been acknowledged and supported by the Business Roundtable's Racial Equity & Justice Subcommittee on Education. Our ability to provide support to MSI students is based on the continued financial support of these donors and others interested in supporting our mission.

To learn more, visit or find us on Twitter @StudentFreedom.

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