Wilberforce University, the first private HBCU, was among the first colleges to announce that they will pay off the debt of their 2020 and 2021 graduates. (Courtesy of Wilberforce University)

By Joshua Moore
Special to the AFRO

So far, over 20 HBCUs have announced they will use the $5 billion debt relief fund to cancel student debts in recent months. 

Wilberforce University, South Carolina State University, Delaware State University and Clark Atlanta University are among the schools leading the charge to eliminate student balances, tuition costs and loan debt for some of their students. 

Delaware State University cancelled almost $1 million in student loan debt for over 220 graduates in the classes of 2020 and 2021. Trinity Washington erased the balances of 400 students, for a total of $1.8 million and South Carolina State University cancelled $9.8 million of student debt for 2,500 students. 

The cancellation of debt in any form is a relief in the Black community. According to a Brookings study in 2016, Black college graduates owe $7,400 more on average than their white colleagues. This will create a chance for black graduates to not have to worry about a chip on their shoulders when it comes to paying back so much money. 

Not only that, but students also drop out because of outstanding bills. According to an analysis from OneClass, about 57% of students who take on debt in college won’t graduate. So, to decrease the amount of money owed in loans will, in return, increase graduation rates across the board. 

While some students have been fortunate in having their debts cancelled, or decreased at the least, others have not. 

From Vineland, N.J., Jordan Martinez, 21, is a Multimedia Journalism major at Morgan State University. She doesn’t understand why more schools aren’t putting more emphasis on providing financial relief for their students. 

“These past two years have been very hard for some people,” Martinez said. “This is a time where they should be helping the alumni and current students entering their schools today.” 

The impact on Martinez’s life would be monumental if she was able to get her loans cancelled or paid off by the school. She said that she would be extremely grateful. 

“I feel like the majority of us are in so much debt,” Martinez said. “I would actually be able to start my life after college.”

From West Orange, N.J., Austin Jackson, 21, is a senior at Morgan State University. He said that more HBCUs should be making an effort to pay off student debt for their students. If he was given that chance, he said that it would mean a lot to him. 

“I would be able to work and live debt free,” Jackson said. “Instead of spending five to ten years paying off my debt.” 

Edmond Harrison, 21, from Baltimore, Md. is a senior at Towson University. He believes that many graduates won’t always find a career in their major. With that in mind, it’s hard and nearly impossible to repay the huge amount of student debt. 

Harrison said that the impact of his school paying some of his loans would impact him tremendously. 

“An enormous weight would be lifted off my shoulders,” Harrison said. “It would give me time and money to put towards my career as a content creator.” 

Overall, it’s important that HBCUs are creating ways that the gap in wealth is shortened between black and white people. This is a big step not only for black graduates, but graduates across the country when it comes to settling student loan debt.

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