As part of a broader coalition effort to double the number of African American advisors over the next decade, the American College of Financial Services has launched the American College African American Scholarship Program.

African Americans and other black people who are in college, just finishing college or changing careers are invited to apply. Scholarships for applicants accepted into the program will cover 100 percent of the cost of earning a professional designation (CFP, ChFC, etc.) or degree (master of science in financial services or master of science in financial management) from the American College, the nation’s only non-profit, accredited college devoted to financial services.

The college is providing $200,000 of funding to kick off the scholarship program and hopes to grow the fund “into the millions,” it says, with help from individual donors and corporate partners. Dr. Robert Johnson, president and CEO of the American College, is challenging academic institutions, professional organizations and financial services companies to work together to reach the goal of doubling the number of African American advisors over the next decade.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 7.6 percent of financial advisors are African American, although African Americans comprise about 13 percent of the nation’s population.

The big obstacles keeping African Americans from seeking careers in financial services are “an overall lack of awareness of the industry, not seeing many advisors who look like them, and not understanding this is a viable profession,” Jocelyn Wright, an assistant professor at the American College who helped create the scholarship fund, tells Financial Advisor.

Some people think advisors just sell insurance, she says, “and insurance companies in some areas still do not have a very good reputation, historically, with the African American community.” Others believe it’s a commission-only industry. So it’s important to educate this population about what advisors do, she says, and to show them there are African American in the business who are doing well and making a difference in the lives of the families they work with.

“If there were more black advisors providing financial services in black communities, then more black families would be better prepared for retirement,” she adds.

Wright, the founder and managing partner of Ascension Wealth Management LLC in Jenkintown, Pa., began her career working for a firm that was owned by a black female who became her mentor. “That was an incredible stroke of luck,” she says. “I was blessed from the very beginning to see someone in the role who looked like me and was also managing a firm.”

To spread the word about the American College African American Scholarship Program, Wright has reached out to academic institutions and professional organizations, including the Urban Financial Services Coalition, the National Association of Black Accountants and the Association of African American Financial Advisors (known as “Quad-A”).  

She is involved in ongoing efforts with Quad-A and other organizations on how to build overall awareness of the many ways to build opportunities for African Americans within the profession. She has spoken to the CFP Board about how to include diverse women in its Women’s Initiative (WIN).

Wright encourages African American advisors to speak to students about their careers and to connect with career changers at churches, fraternities and sororities, and conferences of professional organizations. The National Urban League and the NAACP could be good resources, she says.

Historic black colleges and universities with financial planning degree programs include Clark Atlanta University, Delaware State University and Winston-Salem State University.

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