HBCU Clears Student Balances, Writes Off Federal Funds

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The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the finances of many black Americans, including student loan borrowers. Black college graduates owe an average of $ 25,000 more on student loan than white college graduates, and more than 50% of black borrowers say their net worth is less than what they owe on student loans.

Now, a number of colleges and universities (HBCUs), historically for blacks, are helping to alleviate this financial burden. With federal funding and private donations, these schools are wiping out running student balances, including tuition and tuition fees, and giving them a fresh start.

“We’re giving $ 5 million to help nearly 2,000 students with account balances,” said George T. French, Jr., president of Clark University in Atlanta. a financial implication clause to make sure we cut our student debt so they can go to university and graduate. “

Clark University in Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia, with a total of nearly 4,000 students, was one of the first HBCUs in the country to use federal aid in the wake of the pandemic to clear the balance for some of its students.

Clark University Atlanta President George T. French Jr. talks to students

CNBC | Erica Wright

The school does more than write off tuition arrears. Also, from the spring 2020 semester through the current semester, “if you have a cafeteria or dorm, they’ll cover that,” French said. “So, whatever leftovers you have that prevents you from going to school, we are removing these restrictions.”

“We are reinventing college,” he said, “so that our students can pursue higher education with little to no debt.”

During the pandemic, federal stimulus funds allowed the US Department of Education to make significant investments in colleges and universities with limited resources through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, including over $ 2.6 billion for HBCU.

Autymne Epps is a 20-year-old junior from Clark in Atlanta specializing in business administration.

CNBC | Erica Wright

Otimne Epps, a 20-year-old student from Clark Atlanta who specializes in business administration, said she and her fellow students were stunned when they learned that the school destroyed their unpaid student balances thanks to federal stimulus money.

“When I found out I was speechless,” said Epps, who is also the student government president. “We were all surprised. We thought, “Is this real? It happens? “We were all just talking about how it was such a blessing.”

Historically black colleges and universities pay off student debt

CNBC | United Black College Foundation

Clarke in Atlanta and other schools, including Wilberforce University in Ohio, Hampton University in Virginia, and Grambling State University in Louisiana, sparked a movement that has now swept the United States. More than 20 former black colleges and universities have repaid their tuition arrears in whole or in part. and fees – and experts say that number could rise.

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“The HBCUs provide these end-to-end services, this culture of caring for their students, not just treating them as numbers or bill payers, and because of this history and this culture, funding has come from Congress in coronavirus incentive packages that allow institutions’ ability to pay student debt and tuition fees, HBCU has come to an end, “said Lodriguez Murray, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at United Negro College Fund. [UNCF]which helps fund scholarships for black students.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if more institutions decide to use the funds to positively impact their students, because we are still in the grip of this pandemic,” Murray said.

Many HBCUs, including Clark Atlanta, have also seen a flood of support from private donors. French said that, along with other donations, his school received a $ 15 million gift from philanthropist Mackenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and a $ 1 million gift from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a non-profit organization owned by Facebook founder Mark. Zuckerberg. and his wife Priscilla Chan.

However, it was the federal pandemic stimulus money that directly influenced most of Clark’s Atlanta students who had their student loan debt canceled. “I look at all these students who had no account balances before, and they look up and smile as they start the new year,” French said. “It makes me feel great inner satisfaction.”

Many students are simply calmed down. unexpected financial aid it happened at just the right time. “A lot of students have wondered … how they are going to make thousands of dollars,” Epps said. “With this announcement, it definitely allowed some students to just breathe.”

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