FLorida A&M University continues its efforts to make higher education equitable and accessible, and through a generous donation, HBCU will be able to have a broader impact. The establishment has has received an endowment of $1.2 million from philanthropists Franc and Laura Boulanger.
The donation will be used to create an initiative called the Frank and Laura Baker Graduation Fund. It is designed to ease the financial burdens of underserved academics so they can graduate in four years. Research by the United Negro College Fund found that students who attend historically black colleges and universities have higher levels of unmet financial need and graduate with significantly higher debt than those who attend other schools. . Many students have had to drop out of school due to affordability issues.
Recognizing the disparities, the Bakers started the fund to help cover the outstanding account balances of students in need. Frank, who co-founded private equity firm Siris, says financial burdens shouldn’t hurt academic success.
“In 2020, we opened a Siris office in Florida, and as part of that, we felt it was important to invest in our new community,” he explained in a statement. “Through our conversations with FAMU, we learned that there are extremely capable students who cannot graduate in four years solely due to limited financial resources. We also discovered that the graduation rate in four years is a key metric in determining how much funding FAMU receives from the state of Florida. This made our “investment” decision quite easy: FAMU students entered the workforce earlier and have potentially unlocked more state funding.
Dr. Larry Robinson, who is president of FAMU, added that the gift “will encourage our students to finish on time and allow them to move forward less burdened with debts to the University.” The fund will be overseen by FAMU’s Office of Student Success and Strategic Initiatives and Office of Academic Advancement.
This isn’t the first time the Bakers have donated to an HBCU. In 2020, they created a $1 million fund for Spelman College graduates.
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