Wilberforce University, an Ohio-based HBCU, announced on Saturday that it would cancel the student loan debt of the 2021 graduating classes. Damn, all my university gave me when I graduated was a flash drive. I mean yeah, I got a lot of mileage out of that flash drive, but still.
According to CNN, university President Elfred Anthony Pinkard made the announcement during the commencement ceremony for the graduating class. “As these graduates begin their lives as responsible adults, we are honored to be able to give them a fresh start by relieving their student debt to the university,” Pinkard said during the ceremony.
Pinkard noted that the move will clear over $375,000 in debt. The move only covers fines and fees owed to the school and tuition balances being paid directly by the students or their parents. Federal loans, bank loans, or any kind of personal loan taken out by the student are not covered by the program. Scholarships provided by organizations such as the United Negro College Fund and Jack and Jill Inc. are being used to pay for the debts.
The move comes as President Joe Biden is facing renewed criticism for his refusal to cancel student loan debt of up to $50,000. On Tuesday, during a remembrance for the 100th anniversary of Tulsa Race Massacre, the president unveiled a series of proposals meant to address the economic consequences of racial inequalities. NAACP President Derrick Johnson released a statement that criticized Biden’s proposals because they didn’t include any mention of student loan forgiveness.
“Student loan debt continues to suppress the economic prosperity of Black Americans across the nation. You cannot begin to address the racial wealth gap without addressing the student loan debt crisis. You just can’t address one without the other. Plain and simple,” Johnson’s statement read.
What Wilberforce did is cool, I can’t even front; but there’s also a large part of me that’s like: “You know what would be cooler? Simply lowering the cost of education so you don’t have to do these things.” The students at Wilberforce were far less cynical than my grouchy, old ass, though.
“I couldn’t believe it when he said it. It’s a blessing,” graduating student Rodman Allen said in a university news release. “I can use that money and invest it into my future.”
This wasn’t the first time the university provided financial relief for the students, as it used money from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund set up by the CARES Act to help students who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to register for classes last fall due to outstanding balances at the bursar office.