Student Freedom Initiative


The Student Freedom Initiative logo shows an illustration of a student in graduation dress with an arm raised holding a degree.

Student Freedom Initiative at Claflin University 

Claflin University is one of 9 HBCUs to begin to offer Student Freedom Initiative’s programming in 2021. It was the vision of Robert F. Smith, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, to expand student opportunity beyond his transformative liberation gift to the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019. The problem Smith aimed to help solve is the devastating statistic that 60% of African American wealth is consumed by the servicing of student loan debt, which delays the accumulation of wealth and reinvestment in Black families and communities.

This innovative program, intended to be a perpetual engine of support for students, is offered to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), with an initial emphasis on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The visionary program seeks to liberate students who possess the will to achieve excellence. 

Claflin University’s growing technology infrastructure and reputation for world-class STEM research faculty and education makes an excellent partner for Student Freedom Initiative. Claflin’s President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack welcomed the program's opportunities, saying that the program’s offerings will aid the goals of the university as it takes the lead in prioritizing student success.

“It will also help remove concerns by students and parents regarding the financial challenges of pursuing a high-quality education,” Warmack said.

A single purpose nonprofit organization, Student Freedom Initiative (“SFI”) provides 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

Student Freedom Initiative provides the following components:

  •  Income-contingent funding alternative for rising juniors and seniors 
  •  Tutoring and mentoring for all students and majors
  •  Internships for rising sophomore and above
  •  Targeted Claflin capacity building support

  • Who is Eligible at Claflin for Student Freedom Initiative?

    Student Freedom Initiative includes programming features that are open to all Claflin students, regardless of their chosen major. Program offerings include tutoring, mentoring, internships and targeted Claflin capacity building. 

    The Student Freedom Agreement, as the income-contingent funding alternative is called, is currently available to students who:

    • Have a valid Social Security Number (SSN)
    • School-approved Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) (or acceptable state alternative)
    • Enrolled full-time at a participating four-year college or university, with the final year exception if less than full-time coursework is required for degree completion.
    • Rising junior or senior (by credit hours)
    • Majoring in an approved science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degree-seeking program
    • 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.

     The program expects to grow and these parameters may change. The Student Freedom Initiative website will provide the latest details and updates.

    Claflin administration has approved the following majors as those which students may select in order to be eligible for a Student Freedom Agreement:

    • Computer Science
    • Computer Engineering
    • Biology
    • Biochemistry
    • Bioinformatics
    • Biotechnology
    • Biotechnology
    • Applied Math (Clemson-Only Eligible while Enrolled at Claflin during Junior Year)*
    • Mathematics
    • Mathematics (Applied Mathematics Track)
    • Chemistry
  • How Student Freedom Agreement Can Work for You

    Eligible students can apply for a Student Freedom Agreement to currently receive up to $40,000 total, with a funding cap of $20,000 per academic year. The Student Freedom Agreement is an income-based alternative financial option currently approved for Juniors and Seniors (by credit) for the above mentioned majors. 

    The terms of the Student Freedom Agreement are fundamental to the nonprofit status and student-centric mission of the program. Student Freedom Initiative income-based financing alternative, the Student Freedom Agreement, begins with equity and protection.

    At a high level, these terms include a pledge by Student Freedom Initiative:

    • To embody our commitment to equity and community, all participating students at every institution will be offered the same terms;
    • To provide participants with payment plans aligned with their income; and
    • To shield participants from excessive fees and penalties
  • How did Student Freedom Initiative get started?

    Following his now famous liberation gift to the Morehouse College Class of 2019, Robert F. Smith gathered with the presidents of nine HBCUs, including Dr. Warmack, to form a team to develop the ideas that coalesced to become Student Freedom Initiative. Together they found a solution scaled to serve an entire generation of students at MSIs and HBCUs across the country. Mr. Smith challenged the group to find a way to create a lasting program based on a ‘Pay It Forward’ paradigm by which current participants provide the funding for future students. Any profits would go back into education instead of allowing investors to profit from those least able to afford it. Finally, he charged the team to go beyond the financial aspects and include student support services and assistance for modernizing MSI/HBCU infrastructure to reach across the aisle from academia to the workplace. 

    Smith, the founding director and President of Fund II Foundation, personally provided $50 million to Student Freedom Initiative to match a $50 million grant from the Fund II Foundation to launch the program. 

Student Freedom Initiative Partners 

Claflin students participating in the programming have access to benefits provided by Partners including financial, legal, analytics, and internship programs. Initiative partners include: 

More About Student Freedom Initiative

Academic success and financial freedom is only part of our story. Find out more about what Student Freedom Initiative is all about. 

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