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During Wilberforce University’s graduation, the graduates received a major surprise from the university’s president, Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard. During his speech, he announced that over $375,000 in student loans would be forgiven for the graduates.
“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,” Dr. Pinkard said in a news release.
This doesn’t clear each students student loan debt in total, though. The debt that was cleared doesn’t include federal and state student loans.
According to the Federal Reserve, there is $1.7 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. Research has shown that Black college students graduate owing more money than white students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics:
Black college graduates have an average of $52,000 in student loan debt and owe an average of $25,000 more than white college graduates. Four years after graduation, almost half of Black borrowers owe 12.5 percent more than what they borrowed due to interest, while 83 percent of white borrowers owe 12 percent less than they borrowed. And over half of Black students say that their student loan debt exceeds their net worth.
Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the student loan debt affects the racial wealth gap.
“When you have more student loans, you have less buying power,” Perry told Inside Higher Ed. “You have lower credit scores. It’s a barrier to homeownership. If we really want to help close the racial wealth gap, we would include some provision around student loan cancellation.”
President Joe Biden has been being pushed to forgive $50,000 in federal student loan debt but he claims he doesn’t have the authority to fulfill such a request.
“Cancelling $50,000 of student loan debt is a matter of racial justice. It is a matter of economic justice. It is a matter of generational justice,” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said at a news conference in April.