Credit: Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Officials with a multi-trillion dollar investment firm this week announced the launch of a financial aid program to help Black and Latinx students complete their education.

On Tuesday, one day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Fidelity Investments made public the company’s “Invest in My Education (ME) program that has committed $250 million with the goal of reaching up to 50,000 students,” according to a company press release.

The Triangle has been selected as one of the three regions where the ME’s pilot program will start, along with Boston and Dallas.

In 2020, soon after the murders on George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, Fidelity Investments’s chair and chief executive officer, Abby Johnson, said that while “grieving over racial violence and discrimination, it was imperative “to look forward to how we can make a difference, both at Fidelity and in local communities.”

The company has been putting its money and resources toward that end in the years since.

In 2021, the firm, founded in 1930 and now with over $10 trillion in assets, started “Fidelity Financial Forward,” a free financial literacy resource for parents, teachers, and K-12 students in underserved communities. 

According to its website, the firm has conducted financial literacy workshops in partnership with the NAACP, 100 Black Men, Black Girls Code, the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), and other groups dedicated to removing barriers to economic opportunity.

The company is also a member of the ‘Take on Race” coalition, “which helped put one million electronic devices with reliable connectivity and tech support in the hands of students of color in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to its website. 

In its press release this week, Fidelity officials say that the ME program will rely on a “holistic approach” [that] combines “scholarships, individual support, mentoring, and community grants to facilitate economic mobility for Black and Latinx students.”

Officials say the success of the program will be “measured through students’ college completion rates, their capacity to graduate without student debt, and their ability to secure good-paying jobs that facilitate greater economic mobility and financially firm futures.”

The company points to research and data that shows only 21 percent of Black students and 32 percent of Latinx students who start college graduate within four years, compared to 45 percent of white students. 

“This disruption has long-term financial implications,” according to the release. “The median earnings of people with a bachelor’s degree were 63 percent [higher] than the earnings of those whose highest educational level was the completion of high school.”  

Moreover, “associate degrees are also linked to greater earnings, providing a 20 percent boost over the median earnings of those with a high school education.” 

Fidelity also found that Black students are 114 percent less likely to graduate from college in four years versus their white counterparts, and that Black and Brown students accrue $25,000 more in college debt than White students.

The ME initiative will “focus on financial wellbeing, bringing together scholarships, mentoring, student success and education expertise, as well as experienced nonprofit partners to improve the long-term outcomes of thousands of Black, Latinx, and underserved students,” according to the release.

Fidelity officials describe the initiative as “a long-term, personalized approach to improve post-graduation outcomes for Black, Latinx, and other historically underserved students, supporting the opportunity for economic mobility and a foundation to build a path toward generational wealth.”

The company has partnered with nonprofits, including the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to address what they call the three key components of the initiative. 

“UNCF’s North Star is to increase the total annual number of underrepresented graduates by focusing on activities that ensure more students are college-ready, enroll in college and persist to graduation,” Michael Lomax, president and CEO at UNCF, stated in the release. “The combination of our community knowledge and Fidelity’s expertise in financial wellness will make a significant impact on the lives of these students.”

The ME initiative will provide individual scholarships to help students in underserved communities overcome financial barriers to success and graduate debt-free from a two-year college, four-year college, or a certificate program, along with “a suite of ongoing support, including mentorship by Fidelity associates, internship/apprenticeship guidance, and financial education programming.”

The ME initiative will also make available retention and completion grantsto help institutions assist students who are close to completion and in danger of dropping out due to unpaid tuition and academic fee balances.”

The program will provide grants for nonprofits that focus on “improving graduation rates for thousands of Black, Latinx, and other underserved high school and college students,” according to the release.

Fidelity officials touted the company’s “long-standing commitment to financial education and inclusion,” and described the ME program as the firm’s “latest step” in its “ongoing commitment to historically underserved communities.”

The firm is also involved in an ongoing goal to strengthen its “commitment to diversity and inclusion at every level within its own organization and maintaining its focus on delivering relevant products and services to its increasingly diverse customers,” officials stated in the release. 

For more information about the Invest in My Education program, contact InvestInMyEducation@fmr.com

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Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to tmcdonald@indyweek.com. Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com.