Hampton University freshmen gifted access to digital investing program: 'Start now'

The students will receive funded accounts and financial education.

December 12, 2022, 8:00 AM

Incoming freshmen at Virginia's Hampton University will be the recipients of a large-scale school donation through the digital investing platform Stackwell Capital aimed at decreasing what research has shown is a yawning racial wealth gap.

According to Federal Reserve data, white households hold on average eight times more wealth than Black households, with that figure more than doubling for millennials and members of Gen Z.

Stackwell Capital -- with that discrepancy in mind, its leaders and the university says -- will be helping to provide each of the roughly 860 students in the class of 2026 at Hampton, a historically Black university, with a funded investment account coupled with a free financial literacy course available for all students and their families.

The first-year students will be able to start signing up for their accounts on Dec. 19 and, once they sign up using their Hampton accounts, at least $25 seeded with funds from a donation from the school will be loaded on within a few days.

"The biggest contributing factor to a person's ability to build wealth is in fact time," Stackwell's co-founder and CEO Trevor Rozier-Byrd told ABC News. "That's why we're starting with freshmen in college because if they start now, the impacts for them, their families and generations to come will be massive."

Rozier-Byrd, an asset management professional, said he believes the racial wealth gap is the greatest modern social justice issue. He said he is bringing his years of experience in financial markets to communities that have historically had the most acute racial income gaps.

Therefore, he said, some of Stackwell's latest initiatives include providing investment education to Black communities across the Washington metropolitan region -- where white households hold 81 times more wealth than Black households, according to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute -- in part by teaming with professional basketball organizations like the Washington Wizards.

Last month, Stackwell also partnered with billionaire Robert Smith's Student Freedom Initiative and Prudential Financial on a national investment program for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions.

"Developing relationships with HBCUs is important for us," Rozier-Byrd said, as is "promoting the sense of confidence and empowerment to believe that this is something that they [HBCU students] can do and something that they can be successful with the right tools and support around them."

Students and others listen during a discussion with US Vice President Kamala Harris as she tours Hampton University, Sept. 10, 2021, in Hampton, Virginia.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Hampton freshman Joshua Elias Hoover, 18, said he started investing when he was 13. Hoover told ABC News he was excited for the Stackwell program because he and his peers won't have to stress quite as much over budgetary concerns.

"I'm so happy we're doing it because a lot of students need this," said Hoover, a journalism major and minister in training from Louisiana. "It's going to save us a lot of worry when we want to get some DoorDash or something like that and we're scared because we're trying to spend our own money that we've built over time. But with this set in stone, we have money we can actually budget and think thoroughly and analyze the importance of saving," he added.

Hampton University President Darrell K. Williams is an alum and former "Mister Freshman." He said he regrets not investing when he was his students' ages but calls Monday's announcement a chance for the Hampton Pirates to "get ahead of the game."

"Start now," he told ABC News. "The earlier you start, the smaller amounts of money you need to invest to achieve phenomenal results over time -- don't wait like I did, until two or three years after I graduated from college."

Rozier-Byrd learned from his experiences too, and is paying it forward.

"Part of the way that I was able to pay back my [law school] student loans was by investing in the market," he said. "There are a myriad of ways in which they [students] can address the financial challenges of college affordability and their ability to go to school, get a great education and pursue the careers that are aligned with their interests and their dreams."

Williams lauded Stackwell's involvement, saying it is elevating the student experience at Hampton -- an HBCU widely considered among the "Black Ivy League" -- not only for the investment accounts but also for the financial wellness of alums and their families.

"What we really hope is that one day, through this financial literacy program, some of our graduates will go out and become among the wealthiest people in America," Williams said. "They will sow those financial seeds and the other legacy seeds back into the students who will be at Hampton 20 years from now. So this is not just about today. We understand how this will transform Hampton University, the communities that all of these students will go back to and eventually the world."

A free, 10-hour virtual financial literacy course from the Society for Financial Education and Professional Development is already available at Hampton that the university is placing "phenomenal emphasis" on, Williams said.

Rozier-Byrd said Stackwell adds to that instruction.

"We believe that this can be a powerful tool to helping people meet their long-term financial goals and objectives, and we want to make sure that we're continuing to invest in the future advancement of students on Hampton's campus," he said.