Today, the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) joined United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) and representatives from each of the city’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to announce a new matched savings account and financial capacity-building program for students enrolled at Dillard University, Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO), and Xavier University of Louisiana.
The “HBCU Student Prosperity Project” is a NOLABA initiative in partnership with UWSELA's Individual Development Account (IDA) Project to provide financial capacity for hard-working sophomores, juniors, and seniors attending HBCUs through a 4:1 match on their savings and connections to credit counseling, financial education, and asset-specific training.
According to 2020 ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income, Constrained Employed) Report data, New Orleans has shown steady increases in the number of households that do not earn enough to afford even basic necessities. ALICE households earn above the Federal Poverty Limit but seldom qualify for additional supports or resources needed to make ends meet. Students in these families often work as cashiers, office clerks, servers, or in a related low-paying job to help support their family and put themselves through college, often relying on multiple sources of financial support, such as financial aid, student loans, and credit cards. And while these positions are vital to the New Orleans economy, they do not provide adequate wages to cover the basic necessities of housing, child care, food, transportation, and healthcare, let alone living and other expenses related to education, setting many college students up for financial deficits post-graduation.
“We as business leaders have to start making our young talent a priority by creating more opportunities and arming them with greater knowledge and understanding of their financial health so that once they graduate, they are ready and able to build businesses and careers right here in New Orleans,” said NOLABA’s Interim President and CEO Norman E. Barnum, IV. “NOLABA is committed to working alongside United Way of Southeast Louisiana in providing resources for these students through the HBCU Student Prosperity Project, providing financial knowledge and funding - cultivating the next business leaders of New Orleans.”
NOLABA will work with financial advisers at Dillard, SUNO, and Xavier in the coming year to identify 45 students to participate in the “HBCU Student Prosperity Project” program with the goal of addressing long-standing inequities faced by local HBCU students and setting them on a path to prosperity in their adult lives. Each of the selected students will receive a 4:1 match on their savings toward their education from NOLABA (those that save $500 will be matched with $2,000 forwarded directly to their university), in addition to a series of free financial literacy and professional development classes hosted by UWSELA.
“Over 80% of households under the age of 25 don’t earn enough to survive in New Orleans, which means we are missing out on opportunities to set our young people up for lifelong success,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA President and CEO. “Thanks to support from NOLABA and our local HBCUs, we can begin to close the achievement and wealth gaps for these students and help them reimagine brighter, stronger futures.
While in the program, NOLABA will also introduce students to its 504ward initiative to connect them with other local young professionals and employers. Through these valuable industry connections, NOLABA hopes to increase these students' chances of finding quality, high-paying jobs here in New Orleans and ultimately help to develop a more robust talent pipeline to ensure more of New Orleans’ talented young people stay and contribute to our local economy after graduation.
To learn more about the “HBCU Student Prosperity Project,” please visit nolaba.org/talent-workforce-development.