Private university stuns graduates by announcing it has wiped their student debt

‘Your accounts have been cleared and you don't owe Wilberforce anything’

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 02 June 2021 10:47
<p>Wilberforce students celebrating after the president of the university cleared students’ debts of more than $375,000</p>

Wilberforce students celebrating after the president of the university cleared students’ debts of more than $375,000

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The students graduating from an Ohio university this week had more to celebrate than just their college degrees, after the university announced it was wiping their student debts.

Elfred Anthony Pinkard, the president of Wilberforce University – a historically Black private university – made the surprise announcement to all students graduating in the classes of 2020 and spring 2021.

According to a university statement, debts collectively worth more than $375,000 (£265,000) have been cleared with the help of several scholarships, including the United Negro College Fund, Jack and Jill of America and other institutional funding.

Dr Pinkard said at Saturday's commencement 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.

“So, therefore, the Wilberforce University Board of Trustees has authorised me to forgive any debt,” he said as the students erupted in loud cheers and danced to celebrate in the hall.

"Your accounts have been cleared and you don't owe Wilberforce anything," he continued.

Rodman Allen, a 2021 alumnus, said he would use the money to invest into his future.

“I couldn’t believe it when he said it. It’s a blessing. I know God will be with me. I’m not worried. I can use that money and invest it into my future.”

The debt waiver would not cover personal loans or any other federal and bank loans taken by the students. But it will include the balance fees and fines owed by the students to the university.

In spring last year, the university provided emergency financial aid for Wilberforce students during the initial outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. It helped the students whose bursary office balance might have prohibited them from registering for the upcoming autumn classes.

It was done with the help of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), which was set up through the CARES Act.

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