More than 20 Black colleges have already cancelled millions in student debt
While politicians on the federal level continue to talk things out, historically Black colleges and universities have decided to take matters into their own hands to relieve their students of debt.
“These institutions — though underfunded — punch above their weight in terms of outcome, production and impact,” Lodriguez Murray, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at the United Negro College Fund, told CNN. “HBCUs often lead in higher education, and they have this tradition of wraparound services that takes students from fragile backgrounds and give them the strength to move forward into the world.”
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, brought relief to many universities during the coronavirus pandemic. Some, including Clark Atlanta University, Saint Augustine’s University, Norfolk State University, Delaware State University and other major HBCUs, used that money to help their students, many of whom are struggling even now with mounting student debt.
“Their academic and professional future is important to me and the entire Clark Atlanta University family. We care about students and want to lighten their individual and family’s financial load so they can continue their journey in pursuing and attaining their educational and professional goals,” university President George T. French Jr. said in a news release.
With a pause on student loan payments set to expire in September, President Biden is facing pressure to cancel or forgive up to $50,000 in student loan debt. While Biden has committed to eliminating student debt, he would not commit to more than $10,000 at a CNN town hall.
Student debt is especially prohibitive to Black Americans, who have historically been kept out of higher education. Four years after graduation, the average Black college graduate owes $52,726, compared to $28,006 for the average white college graduate, according to research by Brookings.
“I come from a low income, single-parent household and I am a first-generation high school graduate and first-generation college student,” said McKenzie Estep, a rising senior at Saint Augustine’s University, in a news release. “This type of support brings me one step closer to reaching my dream of starting a career with less debt and becoming financially stable.”