Wilberforce University has a gift for it’s graduating students of 2021: each and every student has had their school debt canceled. The gift also extends to last year’s graduating class of 2020.
Wilberforce, a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), is a private university in Ohio, where 166 students graduated last week. The announcement was made at the school’s graduation ceremony.
“Because we are in awe of your strengths and perseverance. Because you have made your family and yourselves proud. Because you have shown you are capable of doing work under difficult circumstances. Because you represent the best of your generation, we wish to give you a fresh start,” said Wilberforce University President Elfred Anthony Pinkard at commencement.
Wilberforce wipes out student debt
Mr. Pinkard continued, “Your accounts have been cleared and you don’t owe Wilberforce anything,”
The graduating students — comprised of both the class of 2020 and 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, burst into cheers — with some also bursting into tears of joy. Using funds from the United Negro College Fund, as well as The Jack and Jill Foundation, nearly $400,000 of school debt was wiped out with the announcement.
On average, Black college students take out over twice as much in student loans as their White counterparts. Wilberforce’s population of low-income students means even more loans are needed to cover the costs associated with college, including room and board, books, and other school monies.
The debt that was wiped out includes tuition, fees, and fines paid directly to the university by students and their families. However, the gift does not extend to federal loans, bank loans, or personal loans taken out by Wilberforce students.
Still, students were elated at the announcement, with many considering how it will affect their post-graduation plans. “I couldn’t believe it when he said it. It’s a blessing,” graduate Rodman Allen said in a Wilberforce University press release. “I can use that money and invest it into my future.”