The Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) has announced that networking giant Cisco will give $150 million in order to aid historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The aid will take the form of $100 million in networking, security, and collaboration technologies, including ongoing technical support with help from cloud security services provider American Virtual Cloud (AVC) Technologies, in order to facilitate advancements to HBCU technology infrastructure and cybersecurity systems.
The remaining $50 million will act as an anchor investment to support the Student Freedom Initiative over the next four years. That $50 million investment will allow for the financing of the college educations of 500 HBCU students every year.
The Student Freedom Initiative is a nonprofit organization that aims to help students attending Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The SFI provides income-contingent funding for students enrolled at HBCUs and other institutions to help cover education costs. The SFI was initially funded with a $50 million gift from billionaire philanthropist and investor, Robert F. Smith, who is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. In 2019, Smith made headlines around the world when he announced he was paying off all the student loans of the entire graduating class of Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Cisco’s anchor investment of $50 million will help the Student Freedom Initiative move closer towards its goal of forming a $450 million endowment that can support the education expenses of 4,500 students in perpetuity.
“We are thrilled to welcome Cisco and AVC Technologies as strategic partners for SFI in addressing the digital divide faced by our HBCUs,” Robert F. Smith said, announcing Cisco’s aid to the SFI. “Their expertise and generosity will ensure that HBCUs are secure and robust institutions that empower Black students. And Cisco’s added financial commitment to students, making them the first anchor corporate partner of SFI, will help liberate students from crushing debt and allow them to make their own life choices. Their gift to SFI’s endowment is a call to action to other corporate leaders to join our cause.”