Black communities in the U.S. were among the hardest hit by the coronavirus. Infection rates and financial losses were on average were higher in Black communities compared to white communities. Black students take on more student debt than their white peers, and are more likely to struggle to pay their debt off. To give their outgoing and incoming students a leg up financially, some Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have announced student debt forgiveness for their graduating classes and lowered tuition for students enrolling Fall 2021.
Wilberforce University in Ohio announced they are canceling all outstanding student debt for 2020 and 2021 graduates - $375,000 in total. Philander Smith College in Arkansas wiped out $80,000 in debt for their two most recent graduating classes. Shaw University in North Carolina and Delaware State University followed suit with the former cancelling $116,000 of its graduating students’ debt, and the latter awarding $3,276 in debt relief on average to qualifying enrolled students.
Some HBCUs are lowering tuition for incoming students. Clinton College in South Carolina halved tuition for all students enrolling in the fall and is giving incoming full-time students a complimentary computer tablet. Other HBCUs giving tuition discounts include Wiley College in Texas and Denmark Technical college in South Carolina.
Many of the above colleges cite the pandemic as the driving force behind cancelling student debts and lowering tuition. Many HBCUs received noteworthy federal relief funding from all three of the COVID-19 stimulus bills – an estimated $5 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Education, allowing them to offer their students these sweeping financial benefits.
Colleges and universities cancelling student debt allows graduates to head out into the world with an easier time managing finances, a better chance to pursue their goals without financial strings holding them back, and for those interested in attending graduate school, an easier time paying for their furthered education. “As these graduates begin their lives as responsible adults, we are honored to be able to give them a fresh start by relieving their student debt to the university,” says Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard, the president of Wilberforce University.
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