AXA Foundation’s President Speaks Out about College Access

I recently interviewed Faith Frank, President of the AXA Foundation about AXA Achievement, the foundation's program to offer college access and advice to prospective students and their families.

BCLC: Under your signature education program, AXA Achievement, you break down the philanthropic program into Access and Advice. Can you explain the difference between these two terms as well as the importance of each?

Faith Frank: AXA Achievement, provides resources that help make college possible through access and advice. It is a 10-year-old national program that makes scholarships available in every state as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Access is defined in terms of scholarship money that helps to provide kids with resources to fund their education. The AXA Foundation, through AXA Achievement, awards 1.3 million a year through a variety of scholarships. The scholarships are awarded to diverse group of students – AXA Achievers – who have demonstrated determination, ambition and drive to reach their goals, and the ability to succeed in college.

Advice is about information sharing and helps individuals prepare for the future. AXA Advisors financial professionals work with individuals to help them evaluate their current financial situations and determine their short- and long-term goals, including saving for their children’s education.

The company works to build awareness and share information about the cost of college and college savings strategies through seminars and college fairs to provide information to individuals seeking guidance on college funding.

Through our financial professionals as well as through partnerships with organizations including the National PTA, U.S. News & World Report, and the National Association of College Administrators (NACAC), the company works to build awareness and share information about the cost of college and college savings strategies through seminars and college fairs to provide information to individuals seeking guidance on college funding.

We also have a robust college savings section on the Learning Center of our website that includes information on various ways to pay for college, including the role of loans and financial aid. 

BCLC: How do you benchmark the success of your programs?

Frank: We have some specific measurements to gauge the success of the program. This includes the total dollar amount awarded and the number of students attending college and graduating. We also base our success on how many individuals we are able to meet with through the seminars and meetings that we attend with our partners.

Some intangible measurements of success include the stories that the students tell us about how the money has changed their life. We get thank you letters from students all the time telling us how much it means to them to have the opportunity to go to college.

BCLC: What are some of the challenges you face in the program?

Frank: Our biggest challenge is the obvious – college costs continue to rise faster than inflation, therefore increasing the number of deserving students needing financial assistance.  Not just deserving students, but their parents as well.  And not just financial assistance, but important financial education around resources and planning strategies. 

BCLC: What do you look for when you look to partner with an organization?

Frank: Our key partners in this program are: Scholarship America, US News and World Report, National Association for College Admission Counseling, and the National PTA.

When we enter into these partnerships we are looking for a strategic relationship that contributes positively to society. Before we develop a partnership we meet to discuss the benefits that both parties bring to the table, and we are not afraid to take risks. We determine who the right partner will be that fits with our strategy that can be a long-term ally.

Each year we assess the dynamic of the partnership and determine how to collectively improve the relationship.

BCLC: What are some of the other philanthropic programs that the foundation focuses on?

Frank: AXA Achievement is the Foundation’s signature program but we do have other programs that also help to engage AXA Equitable employees.

The Matching Gift Program gives our people the ability to direct the Foundation’s contributions to the issues and commitments they feel are important. Through the AXA Day of Service, AXA offices in communities across the country donate time and energy to local nonprofit organizations. As a company, AXA Equitable is very committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.  To match this commitment, the AXA Foundation supports organizations that reflect this mission – such as the United Negro College Fund and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. 

We also support the American Red Cross as a Disaster Responder annual donor.  Our support of the 9/11 tragedy has led us to be part of the 9/11 Memorial and AXA was one of the founding members for the Families of Freedom II Scholarship Fund.

BCLC: According to a Gallup poll, the June unemployment rate was about 9.2% with 93% of college graduates saying that now is a “Bad Time” to find a quality job. Through AXA Achievement, does the Foundation provide any training/mentoring/assistance to scholarship recipients when the students are looking to enter the workforce?

Frank: We connect with the students/graduates through social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook and provide some paid internships to past AXA Achievement recipients. We help where we can at any level of the organization. For example, students have connected with managers in local offices near their homes, they stay in touch with me and some even connect with our President and CEO.