Frank Baker, an African-American and founder of Siris Capital in New York, has paid off the debt for nearly 50 students graduating from Spelman College, the all-women historically black college in Atlanta. The payment totaled $250,000, according to Forbes.
The 47-year-old investor, who heads a billion-dollar private equity firm, had wanted to help high-achieving Spelman students who could not afford to finish and graduate. Baker had reportedly been in discussions with Spelman’s board of trustees about putting together a program.
According to reports, he got a call from Spelman a week ago and he was told there were about 50 high-achieving seniors, who had balances and needed help. Baker spent $250,000 to cover the tuition balances of about 50 women so they could graduate this year.
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“The people who my heart really goes out to are women in their senior year who can’t afford it anymore and have to drop out. These are the women we need in the workforce,” Baker said. “They are going to make a difference.”
“These are the most resilient people because if they run out of money their senior year, you know they were out of money their sophomore year and just made it work.”
The businessman said he was inspired by Robert Smith, the wealthy African-American, who pledged to pay off the student loans of the 2019 class of Morehouse College. Apparently, Smith’s $40 million donation inspired Baker.
Baker and his wife, Laura Day Baker, an interior designer and philanthropist announced a $1 million gift toward the establishment of a scholarship for Spelman College graduates.
“We are all aware of the headwinds that people of colour – especially women face in our country, the challenges of which are made even more apparent by the economic and health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Bakers.
“We believe it is critical that talented women finish college and confidently enter free of the undue financial stress the initial stage of their professional careers. We hope that this gift will help lessen their financial burden as they start this promising next chapter in their lives and encourage them to persevere over life’s challenges,” they said in a press release.
In an interview, the University of Chicago graduate said: “Robert was fortunate enough to go to Cornell and Columbia and him giving to Morehouse was a nod to the recognition that the majority of African-Americans going to college are graduating from historically black institutions”.
“We need to make sure these schools continue to be viable. We are all part of the same community. It doesn’t matter if I went to the school or not,” Baker said.