College campus with a few students.
Addressing school dropout due to lack of resources. Photo: Pixabay.

Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) announces $1.1 million grant from Capital One Foundation

The resources will allow students to request emergency funds to continue their studies.


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To expand the HELPS (Handling Everyday Life Problems for Students) program, which provides scholarships of up to $500 per semester to students facing an emergency that puts their enrollment and graduation at moderate to high risk continuous, 2,000 students in 10 colleges and universities of the SFI system will benefit.

Robert F. Smith, founder and board chairman of Student Freedom Initiative, and founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, stated:

The HELPS Program has become a critical pillar of the holistic support that Student Freedom Initiative offers students at HBCUs and MSIs.

Educational institutions include:

  1. California State University – Long Beach (CA)
  2. University of California ­– Riverside (CA)
  3. Dillard University (LA)
  4. Xavier University (LA)
  5. Bowie State University (MD)
  6. University of Maryland – Eastern Shore (MD)
  7. Hampton University (VA)
  8. Norfolk State University (VA)
  9. Virginia State University (VA)
  10. Virginia Union University (VA)

Program Scope

With the allocation of the new resources, which allow the program to expand its reach from 20 public and private institutions in 10 states, to 30 institutions in 14 states, the association seeks to strengthen the persistence of students to obtain a degree in historically African American colleges (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs).

“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,” noted Shena Ashley, president of the Capital One Foundation.

SFI defines an emergency as a one-time, unexpected expense associated with immediate risk to a student's health, life, property, or enrollment status. These emergencies include, but are not limited to, transportation, IT software and hardware, healthcare, food security, temporary housing and utilities, and security-related purchases, among others.

Over the course of their undergraduate studies, students are eligible to receive a maximum amount of $4,000. Interested parties can apply for grants on the official SFI website.

“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,” added Smith.


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