Student Freedom Initiative

A single purpose nonprofit organization, Student Freedom Initiative, the organization strives to be a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choices for students attending Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). They hope to do this by increasing their social and economic mobility using a student-centric, evidence-based, holistic, and collaborative approach. In simpler terms, Student Freedom Initiative hopes to provide students with the academic skills and career opportunities they need to succeed after graduation, including:

  • Tutoring and mentoring
  • Internships
  • Targeted capacity-building
Dillard University Academics

Student Freedom Initiative also offers an income-contingent funding alternative to eligible students at participating schools, including Dillard University. 

Are You Eligible for Student Freedom Initiative Programs?

All Dillard University students can take advantage of Student Freedom Initiative’s academic and career support programs, from tutoring and mentoring opportunities to paid internships facilitated through the internX platform, which helps place students at leading companies as interns.  

In addition, Student Freedom Initiative offers targeted capacity-building programs to support our institution’s needs. Details on participation in these programs will be provided on this page as the program rolls out in the coming months. 

The income contingent alternative to high interest fixed payment loans component of Student Freedom Initiative’s program is limited at this time to rising junior and senior students in approved STEM majors. This financial program is called Student Freedom Agreement. The administration at Dillard University, has approved the following majors for participation in the initiative’s Student Freedom Agreement component: 

  • Biology 
  • Chemistry 
  • Computer
  • Science 
  • Mathematics 
  • Physics 

It’s also important to note that juniors and seniors majoring in any of the approved STEM programs must also meet specific eligibility criteria to receive funding under a Student Freedom Agreement (SFA). The current eligibility criteria includes:

  • Completed a FAFSA or acceptable alternative state aid application that is accepted and approved by student’s school;
  • A valid Social Security Number;
  • Not an international student or foreign exchange student authorized to enter the United States on a non-immigrant visa;
  • Majority age or older; Junior or senior for the school year being funded; Enrolled full-time for the coming academic term (unless we grant an exception because student requires less than full-time enrollment to complete his/her bachelor’s degree in her/his final year of study);
  • Working towards a degree in an approved STEM major; and
  • Meeting satisfactory academic progress as defined by the student’s school.
Dillard University Academics

To learn more about Student Freedom Initiative and the Student Freedom  Agreement, please contact Dillard’s Office of Financial Aid, review the eligibility page on the Student Freedom Initiative’s website or check this page for future updates. 

Details on the Student Freedom Agreement

The Student Freedom Agreement is an income-contingent funding alternative available to rising junior and senior students in approved STEM majors at participating schools.

Additional Student Freedom Agreement details: 

  • Funding for each student will be capped at $20,000 per academic year and $40,000 total for junior and senior year. 
  • Payment term is 20 years,  or until the Termination Amount is zero.  After which time the SFA will be declared null and void. 
  • Payment can be deferred for up to 12 months for any reason. Once all deferrals have been paid in full, participants can take up to 12 more deferrals. This cycle continues throughout the payment period of the SFA. 
  • The payment amounts are not fixed, and are income-contingent. Participants incur no obligation in years where they make less than 225% of the Federal Poverty Level for an individual in the 48 contiguous states and District of Columbia – currently $28,980 per year. 
  • If a student  is permanently disabled, or dies, the obligation is terminated.
  • If a participant files for bankruptcy, we will at no time assert that the SFA is non-dischargeable in bankruptcy.

It’s important to note that if you are interested in participating in this program, you should read all Student Freedom Agreement related documents carefully, and review materials with your financial aid counselor and other qualified professionals before entering into a SFA. While the SFA is meant to support students at HBCUs avoid high-interest loans to pay for their education, it may not be the right choice for all eligible students.

If a student has applied for the Student Freedom Agreement and would like status updates on their Student Freedom Agreement application, students should contact customer support at 833.531.1310 for status updates on their Student Freedom Agreement application. Students can also contact their Financial Aid Office with additional questions. 

To learn more about the Student Freedom Agreement, applying for the program and entering into an Agreement, visit the Student Freedom Initiative website. 

DU Student at orientation holding sign

The History of Student Freedom Initiative

Robert F. Smith, entrepreneur, philanthropist and Founder, Chairman and CEO of global investment firm Vista Equity Partners, is the visionary behind Student Freedom Initiative. After Smith’s newsworthy gift of nearly $34 million to pay off the undergraduate student loans of the Morehouse College class of 2019, Smith labored to create more opportunities for lasting, generational change when it came to lessening student debt for students of color. The result of several years of careful study and collaboration was Student Freedom Initiative. Initially endowed with a $50 million donation by Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is also founding director and President, Smith later matched the amount with his own $50 personal gift, and the Initiative was born. 

While Smith was named Chairman of Student Freedom Initiative, a growing number of organizations have offered their support. Some groups will provide financial assistance, while others are offering their expertise by way of training or growing university capacity-building programs.  

For more information, follow Student Freedom Initiative on social media, including their Facebook,Twitter and Instagram accounts, and check their website for new information and developments.