As Graduation Was Ending, Students Were Given a Big Gift

Ohio's Wilberforce University wipes away debt for graduating students
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2021 7:40 AM CDT

What's better than hearing your name read aloud at commencement? This: As Saturday's graduation ceremonies came to a close, Ohio's Wilberforce University President Elfred Anthony Pinkard let the 2020 and 2021 graduates know they would all be exiting without any student debt to the university. reports some $375,000 of student debt was forgiven thanks to the United Negro College Fund, Jack and Jill, and other funding sources. The forgiveness doesn't impact any federal, bank, or personal loans the students have taken out but covers fines and fees as well as tuition balances that were being paid directly to Wilberforce, reports CNN. Wilberforce is the country's oldest private HBCU. The Washington Post reports it has about 700 students, 166 of whom were in the current 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," says Pinkard. News of that fresh start was met with cheers. The Post describes one student as "awestruck, mouth agape." The school notes in a press release that HBCU grads typically have "staggering" amounts of student debt. "According to the American Association of University Women, Black women ... have the highest student debt loan of any racial or ethnic group. For these 2020 and 2021 Wilberforce students, those statistics have now narrowed." The Post shares some of the rich history of the school, which dates to pre-Civil War days: It was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and counted WEB Du Bois among its faculty; he met his wife there. (Read more uplifting news stories.)

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