Matching money and financial education key elements of new program for New Orleans HBCU students | Education

The New Orleans Business Alliance and United Way are partnering with New Orleans’ three historically black universities to ease the financial burden on students and encourage them to stay in New Orleans after graduation.

The Historically Black College and University Student Prosperity Project will support 45 students from Dillard University, Xavier University and Southern University of New Orleans, representatives from those colleges and New Orleans said Thursday. Orleans Business Alliance and United Way of Southeast Louisiana at a press conference.

The program will provide students with money, as well as financial education classes.

“HBCUs disproportionately recruit students who have significant financial need and limited access to additional financial resources,” said Kim Rugon, vice chancellor of institutional advancement at SUNO. “This HBCU Prosperity Project provides access to resources and tools that will empower our students to make wise financial decisions about using credit, saving, and investing their money.”

The program offers students a match of $2,000 if they save $500. The amount will be sent to the universities on their behalf to pay for education expenses. Students will also have access to credit counseling and financial education.

“I think the biggest impact is knowledge,” Rugon said. “Make them realize that once you’ve finished school, your credit is so important, your savings are so important. It is essential for students to put a little savings aside, because once you graduate, you are not guaranteed to get that job.

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Students will also be able to network with professionals in their fields of interest through 504ward, a nonprofit organization that seeks to attract and retain young professionals in New Orleans.

“Students are struggling to meet their living expenses despite the growing number of students working full-time or part-time,” said Michael Williamson, President and CEO of United Way of Southeast Louisiana. Even with college loans, financial aid, and family support, many students have to work while studying. Many students also fund their studies with credit cards, he said.






The Xavier University of Louisiana Campus Administration Building in New Orleans, Louisiana is shown Tuesday, March 10, 2020.




“If they are able to graduate, stagnating wages and rising costs of living make it extremely difficult for students to pay off loans or debts and start securing assets for their future” , said Williamson, citing research from the Report ALICEt, a United Way study of families who earn more than the federal poverty level income level, but still struggle to make ends meet with low-paying jobs and few resources. “Unfortunately, 60% of households headed by people under the age of 25 living in New Orleans live in poverty.”

The Student Prosperity Project is an adaptation of a United Way program that uses a similar matched savings model for low-income individuals and families acquiring assets like a home or an education.

Norman Barnum, acting CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance, said he hopes the program will entice young talent to stay in New Orleans and give them “less financial burden with the knowledge of how to take care of their finances during their studies and after graduation.”

“New Orleans can only thrive if our young people choose to make it here and our young people can only thrive in New Orleans if we as business leaders invest in them,” Barnum said.

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Marie Fazio writes for The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans lawyer as a member of the Report For America body. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @mariecfazio.

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Julio V. Miller