Fidelity Investments, the giant financial services company, is committing $250 million to support as many as 50,000 underserved minority college students with scholarships, mentorships and other forms of support over the next five years.
The Invest in My Education program, which the company announced today, is aimed at increasing access and success in higher eduction for Black, Latinx, and other historically underserved students.
The five-year initiative will focus on increasing students’ college completion rates, their ability to graduate without student debt, and their success in securing good-paying jobs after college.
Citing research that only 21% of Black and 32% of Latinx students who start college graduate within four years, compared to 45% of white students, and that Black and Latinx students accrue $25,000 more in student debt on average than their white peers, Fidelity has structured the Invest in My Education program into three key components aimed at remedying such disparities:
Fidelity Scholars Program: Need-based scholarships will be awarded to help students overcome barriers to success and graduate debt-free from a two-year college, four-year college, or a certificate program. As a last-dollar-in scholarship, the amount of support will vary depending on students’ financial need and the postsecondary institution or nonprofit certificate program in which they are enrolling.
In addition to financial assistance, the Fidelity Scholars Program will also provide ongoing support, including mentorship by Fidelity associates, internship and apprenticeship guidance, and financial education programming. Fidelity is engaging the United Negro College fund (UNCF) and MENTOR, to provide expert support and resources for this component.
Retention and Completion Grants: These grants will be awarded to help institutions assist students who are close to completion but at risk of dropping out of college because of unpaid tuition and academic fee balances.
Ecosystem-Building Grants: These grants will be directed toward nonprofit organizations focused on improving graduation rates for Black, Latinx, and other underserved high school and college students. The funding will help strengthen coordination among the organizations to develop quality pathways to post-secondary education.
“Invest in My Education upholds Fidelity’s most fundamental value — to empower individuals to strengthen and secure their financial futures,” said Pamela Everhart, Head of Regional Public Affairs and Community Relations, Fidelity Investments. “By taking a unique, long-term and holistic approach, Invest in My Education has the potential to support economic mobility for up to 50,000 students over the next five years—and that is really just the beginning.”
Fidelity is donating $190 million to UNCF as the scholarship part of the overall $250 million initiative. Applications for the scholarships will be processed by UNCF, which will select the recipients. Applications are scheduled to open in March. The first group of recipients will be chosen this summer, and the awards will begin for students entering college in fall, 2023.
The scholarships will be rolled out first for students in Massachusetts, Texas and North Carolina. They will ultimately be expanded to other areas where Fidelity has a significant presence, including New Jersey, New Mexico, Florida, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Colorado and Utah.
“This is an incredibly generous gift from Fidelity Investments,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO, UNCF. “We are delighted to partner with a premier global financial services company to do this work. The Fidelity Scholars Program is exemplary, innovative and demonstrates the company’s commitment to provide equal educational opportunities for low-income and underrepresented students who do not have the advantages of other students.”
Lomax praised the comprehensiveness of the program and its focus on students with 2.5 to 3.5 grade point averages, who are often overlooked for scholarship opportunities.
“I’m glad to see they’re getting a little respect — they’re the Rodney Dangerfield of students,” said Lomax. “They’re not always achieving the highest academic results. But they’re staying in the fight. They’re doing the work. And they’re getting the degree. And they have to work doubly hard because people don’t always focus on them and give them the support.”
plans to increase graduation rates and students’ ability to complete their education debt free.
Pamela Everhart, Fidelity’s head of Regional Public Affairs and Community Relations, said the program is part of the firm’s plans to direct more resources to some minority communities.
“It’s a strategic focus to mitigate some of the systemic and complex barriers that historically underserved students face,” Everhart said. “We believe that all students, regardless of their backgrounds, should have an opportunity to access higher education and economic mobility and then begin to build a path to generational wealth.”
Fidelity research found that 21% of Black students and 32% of Latinx students graduate from college in four years, compared to 45% of white students. The company also found that, on average, Black and Latinx students accrue $25,000 more in student debt than their white peers. To address those inequalities, Fidelity is partnering with UNCF, the nation’s largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to Black students, and other nonprofits.