Millions of people every year leave college programs without completing their degree. Some leave because of the cost, because they feel overwhelmed by the workload or due to other personal obligations. While some don’t desire to return, others want to butas they get older and life gets more complex, completing their degree seems too difficult.
Morehouse College is trying to help alleviate some of the barriers that adult learners face when completing their degrees. The HBCU announced in February the creation of a new online program — Morehouse Online — specifically aimed at helping Black men with some completed college credits finish their degree.
The idea to create an online program working to help adult learners who haven’t finished their programs came to Morehouse President David A. Thomas after meeting former Morehouse students at alumni events who attended the school but didn’t earn their degrees.
“They had a desire to finish their degree, but didn’t have the ability to stop what they were doing in the world and go back to school,” Thomas said in an interview. “We owe it to the world to amplify our impact and that means … impacting the world without the world having to come to us. This is us going to the world.”
Closing Racial Gaps in Higher Education
People of color — and specifically Black people — are less likely to finish their college degree than their white peers. People of color tend to be underrepresented in their fields of study, attend schools with less resources and are forced to borrow more money than white students. Those can all lead to some of the disproportionate drop out rate when compared with white students.
Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, has focused on the inequities Black students face. At his commencement speech to Morehouse College’s Class of 2019, Smith pledged to pay off the entirety of their student loans, including the student loans held by their parents and guardians. A small portion of his donation, $400,000, was set aside to support research on how the debt relief influences the economic and professional lives of the graduates.
Smith’s involvement with HBCUs and student debt continued in 2020 with the creation of Student Freedom Initiative, a nonprofit that aims to provide an income-contingent funding alternative to high-interest student loans for STEM-majors. Launching fall 2021 at nine HBCUs, the Student Freedom Initiative was initially funded with a personal donation of $50 million from Smith and $50 million from the Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is the founding director and President. To learn more about how student debt disproportionately impacts students of color visit Student Freedom Initiative’s website.