Student Freedom Initiative appoints Mark A. Brown as Executive Director



WASHINGTON–(COMMERCIAL THREAD) – The Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) today announced the selection of Mark A. Brown as Executive Director. After serving as Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid at the United States Department of Education, where he managed the $ 1.7 trillion federal student loan program, Mark brings significant experience, insights and first-hand knowledge of student loans and their impacts on students and families. across the United States.

“We are delighted to welcome Mark to the team, ”said Robert F. Smith, who is Chairman of SFI. “After extensive research, it became clear that Mark is the ideal candidate to take over as head of SFI. A graduate of Tuskegee University, a retired US Air Force general with over thirty years of distinguished service, Mark has dedicated his life to public service and student aid. I look forward to working closely with Mark to lead SFI to the next stage of growth, with the support of Keith Shoates, who has served as Interim Executive Director, and who will remain with SFI as Director of Business. ‘exploitation. Smith said.

Launched in March 2020, the Student Freedom Initiative is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring freedom in career and life choices for students attending institutions serving minorities (MSI). In October 2020, Robert F. Smith personally donated $ 50 million to kickstart significant SFI expansion.

“I am excited about the opportunity to continue my service in higher education with the Student Freedom Initiative. With HBCU and MSI students disproportionately burdened with student finance debt, I know SFI’s holistic solution can make a real difference, ”said Mark A. Brown. “The SFI team has accomplished a lot in a short period of time, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to building on this progress and working closely with the Board as we continue to expand our commitment to student success by reducing the burden of student debt.

SFI provides holistic support through four main components: (1) an income-based financing alternative to fixed payment obligations, (2) internships, (3) targeted capacity building of the HBCU and (4) tutoring, mentoring and other student services. November 23, 2020 SFI announced nine participating HBCUs, which identified qualified STEM majors for eligible juniors and seniors from the fall 2021 academic year. Continuing to focus on staying student-centered, evidence-based and holistic , SFI has made available an online student interest capture portal for those who wish to be informed of the availability of the online application and the comparison calculator.

The Student Freedom Initiative has received more than $ 100 million in pledges so far, including a recent generous contribution from the Walmart Foundation as part of its first round of grants for the Center for Racial Equity. In addition, the program has been recognized and supported by the Business Roundtable on Education Subcommittee on Racial Equity and Justice.

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The Student Freedom Initiative, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, is dedicated to ensuring freedom in career and life choices for junior and senior students pursuing degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM ). Initially focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the Student Freedom Initiative is student-centered, evidence-based, and holistic. SFI enables social and economic mobility of participants through four transformative components, including an income alternative to the fixed payment obligations used to fund colleges, internships, mentoring, tutoring and other student services, as well as targeted HBCU capacity building. SFI works with community organizations, businesses and government entities through public-private partnerships to bring about lasting systemic change to support the entire HBCU ecosystem. To learn more, visit



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