TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – STEM majors at Stillman College have a new option for financial aid.
Stillman College has joined the Student Freedom Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the social mobility of students attending a minority serving institution. SFI provides professional development, access to technology, and mentorship, as well as the Student Freedom Agreement, an income-contingent student loan.
Through the Student Freedom Agreement, STEM majors in their junior and senior years would be eligible to borrow up to $20,000 a year. This financial aid option would benefit students who receive aid that doesn’t cover the entire cost of attendance; for instance, students who are eligible for Parent Plus or private loans would qualify for SFA aid.
Stillman President Dr. Cynthia Warrick said there are roughly 30 students on campus who receive Parent Plus loans. She said some of those students have gaps in funding that force them to either withdraw from the institution or switch from in-person learning to Stillman Online.
“SFI will be game changer for our students,” Warrick said. “They will have access to very low interest rates and high-paying internship and career opportunities with major employers, enabling them to complete their degree without the worry of funding.”
Warrick said loan repayment terms are flexible and based on income. Additionally, graduates will only begin repayment if they make more than $30,000 annually. However, SFI’s internship and professional development programming through the InternXL Platform are designed to create pathways to well-paying jobs.
“We’re excited for this highly collaborative endeavor for career and professional development,” said Dr. Maria Lumpkin, vice president for Strategic Initiatives at Stillman. “Stillman’s Office of Career Services will anchor the support our students need to have a viable career trajectory and placement to fulfill what SFI is meant to do.”
Stillman is one of 14 institutions in SFI’s third cohort and one of 48 HBCUs currently affiliated with the program.
To date, the Student Freedom Initiative has received generous contributions from Robert F. Smith, Fund 2 Foundation, Cisco, Jane Street, Prudential, and the Walmart Foundation. The program has also been acknowledged and supported by the Business Roundtable’s Racial Equity & Justice Subcommittee on Education.
“We are excited by the 149% increase in students who will benefit from Student Freedom Initiative’s programs. This is remarkable growth since we first started this journey with nine participating HBCUs,” said Robert F. Smith, founder and board chairman of Student Freedom Initiative, and founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. “Our team has remained true to our original vision to provide educational and professional opportunities to first-generation, low-income students.”