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Many people saw their finances suffer greatly during the past year and a half due to the global pandemic, and it goes without saying that college students had it extra rough by dealing with massive disruptions in their academic plans while still being required to cover the bill or take out loans for their education.

Many HBCUs across the nation understood the plight of their students greatly, and as a result, pledged to use a combination of federal funds and private donations to completely clear out debt and reshape the college experience overall.

MORE: HBCU Reparations: New Book Argues That Historically Black Colleges And Universities Are Owed

More than 20 historically black colleges and universities — that number is expected to grow — are said to be joining the grand gesture, including Wilberforce University in Ohio, Hampton University in Virginia, Louisiana’s Grambling State University and the beloved Clark Atlanta. The latter academic institution was one of the first HBCUs to use federal pandemic relief aid to financially free some students from their outstanding balances, which also includes any prior bills in dining and residence halls. “We’re committing $5 million, assisting nearly 2,000 students with account balances,” says Clark Atlanta’s President George T. French Jr., who also added, “The impetus, of course, was to help our students — and to make sure from a business, from a financial implication posture to make sure that we reduce our student debt, so that they could matriculate and graduate.”

Take a look at how this was all made possible, via CNBC:

“During the pandemic, federal stimulus funds have enabled the U.S. Department of Education to make significant investments in under-resourced colleges and universities through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, including more than $2.6 billion to HBCUs.

Autymn Epps, a 20-year-old junior at Clark Atlanta majoring in business administration, said she and her fellow undergrads were stunned when they heard the school had wiped out their unpaid student balances thanks to federal stimulus money.

‘When I found out, I was speechless,’ said Epps, who is also student government president. ‘We were all surprised. We were like, ‘is this real? Is this happening?’ We were all just talking about how it was such a blessing.’”

As mentioned before, private loans also played a huge part in helping to alleviate college students of their debt. Some of you may remember the $2.7 billion monetary pledge made to 286 “high-impact” organizations by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott earlier this year, with Clark Atlanta alone receiving $15 million out of those funds. Another $1 million was donated to the university as a gift by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, spearheaded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

As we look towards the future to right some of the wrongs in our history in other areas of society, it’s amazing to see the higher education system making it more than a possibility for Black students to thrive without worrying too much about their financial woes. Let’s hope more universities follow suit!


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A Growing Number Of HBCUs Are Canceling Student Debt. Here’s How They’re Getting It Done  was originally published on