A Black woman stands outside with headphones on and an iPhone in her hand, with a graphic of the “Ron Brown Scholar Program” to the left of the woman

The Ron Brown Scholar Program: Helping Underserved Students

Higher education has long promised students and families a way to achieve economic success by opening pathways to promising job opportunities. But for some students, even if they earn a college degree they are burdened with student loan debt. The burden of student loan debt can be felt by anyone, but it is especially felt by students from underrepresented backgrounds like those from the Black community.
The Ron Brown Scholar Program (RBSP) sets out to address these very issues to help students succeed. Guiding these students throughout their college journeys and helping to relieve student debt pressures can shape the next generation of leaders in the U.S. Take a look at exactly how the Ron Brown Scholar Program works and helps underserved students.

What Is the RBSP?

The RBSP is a public 501c3 charity that was established in 1996 to serve underserved students in higher education. For over 25 years, the program has helped students prepare for their future careers and provided tuition assistance. The program consists of:
  • A college scholarship: The Ron Brown Scholarship for low-income Black students sets students up for future success. Each year, 45 to 50 uniquely talented students are selected to receive $40,000 scholarships evenly distributed over four years.
  • The Ron Brown – Ruth and Norman Rales Leaders Network: This network provides career and professional development services that are offered to the top 2-3% of RBSP applicants, with no need for an additional application.
  • The Guided Pathway Support Program (GPS): The GPS is a high-tech college access initiative for college juniors and seniors, as well as their parents, to help navigate the college process.

What Are the Qualifications of the Scholarship?

To qualify for the Ron Brown Scholarship, as an applicant, you must be:
  • A Black student
  • A U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • A current high school senior at the time of applying
The RBSP typically awards the scholarship portion to high school seniors who show a financial need for college tuition assistance and are excelling academically. In addition, RBSP looks for students who show an interest in public service, community engagement, business entrepreneurship and global citizenship. These areas of interest are all based upon the four pillars of the late Ronald H. Brown’s mission, which inspired the creation of this program.
If you are interested in the Ron Brown Scholarship, learn more about the application process on the website, which includes a detailed timeline and deadlines for each stage of the application process.

Robert F. Smith and Education Equity

Philanthropist and business leader Robert F. Smith has been a longtime supporter of organizations and initiatives that drive forward education equity for underserved students. Smith’s commitment to education and underserved students led him to become a recipient of the Ronald H. Brown American Journey Award in 2017. This award recognized Smith’s many philanthropic endeavors to support education equity, and his support of educational organizations has only grown since receiving the honor.
For example, Smith is Chairman of Student Freedom Initiative, an organization that works to help relieve the burden of student loan debt for qualifying STEM students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Just like RBSP, Student Freedom Initiative understands the great weight of student loan debt on underserved students and works to eliminate the pressure of such debt.
Learn more about how Smith helps advance education reform and the organizations he supports on LinkedIn, including Student Freedom Initiative.