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Commencement signifies the beginning of a new chapter for scholars across the world, and generous donors are ensuring they can embark on the next stage of their journeys without the weight of financial burdens. Texas-based Wiley College received a $300,000 gift from an anonymous giver to clear the student debt for the HBCU’s 2022 graduating class.

During the school’s commencement ceremony on May 7, the college’s President & CEO Herman J. Felton surprised over 100 graduating scholars, informing them that their balances were cleared. The announcement was met with excitement and relief as the global health crisis exacerbated financial obstacles for many students pursuing degrees at the school.

“Our commitment to our students goes beyond their time while they are enrolled,” Dr. Felton shared in a statement. “We are constantly communicating with donors to assist students in these ways so that they can begin their after-college experience with less debt. We are grateful for this anonymous donor who will assist the students in paying off their balances to Wiley College and help us achieve institutional goals of graduating our students with little to no debt.”

Contributions like the one made by the unnamed donor are needed as student debt disproportionately impacts scholars at historically Black colleges and universities. A study revealed in 2020, Black HBCU students had 32 percent more debt than those at other institutions.

The donation comes nearly a year after award-winning actor Denzel Washington donated $100,000 to Wiley College as part of a larger $1 million commitment made by the Denzel Washington Family Foundation in 2007. The endowment will financially support the HBCU’s debate team. “Supporting the next generation of brilliant minds in the art of debate at Wiley College will open so many doors of opportunity for these students during college, career and beyond,” said Washington. “We are honored to continue supporting the best and the brightest in the land and look forward to The Great Debaters continuing to do what they do best: win.”


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