Cognizant of the student debt disparities that disproportionately impact HBCU grads, colleges and universities throughout the country are stepping up so recent alums can transition into their post-college lives without the weight of debt. The latest historically Black university to eliminate student debt for its recent graduates is Wilberforce University, CBS News reported.
The Ohio-based institution’s president Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard surprised the school’s 2021 graduating class at its commencement ceremony by revealing Wilberforce University will erase the debt for its new alumni. The debt, which totaled more than $375,000, was covered through institutional funding and scholarships from organizations that include Jack and Jill of America and the United Negro College Fund. The debt solely owed to the HBCU was cleared.
Dr. Pinkard says the effort will be instrumental in helping recent graduates change the trajectory of their financial futures. “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,” he said in a statement.
News about Wilberforce University’s announcement comes weeks after Delaware State University revealed it would cancel over $700,000 in student loans for over 220 students. The effort was made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act that was enacted by President Joe Biden and his administration. “While we know our efforts won’t help with all of their obligations, we all felt it was essential to do our part,” DSU’s Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management Antonio Boyle said in a statement. “Too many graduates across the country will leave their schools burdened by debt, making it difficult for them to rent an apartment, cover moving costs, or otherwise prepare for their new careers or graduate school.”
These transformative efforts come at a time when inequities surrounding student loan debt for students who attend historically Black colleges and universities are prevalent. The UNCF reported HBCU students borrow student loans at higher rates than their peers at non-HBCUs due to socio-economic barriers.