Morehouse College announced it has launched a new program that would help relieve debt for its students and graduates.
The new program called the Morehouse College Student Success program is a fundraising and research initiative created by the Board of Trustees to study the impact of student loan debt. The program will also solicit and accept donations to reduce or eliminate student loan debt for its graduates.
“The Morehouse College Board of Trustees believes that student loan debt can be an obstacle in the path of Morehouse Men that can cause them to delay enrolling in advanced degree programs, working as K-12 teachers, or pursuing other interests that they are passionate about,” David A. Thomas, President of Morehouse College, said in a statement. “The Morehouse College Student Success Program will provide students with a liberating gift that will wipe away or greatly reduce their student loans, allowing them to pursue their dreams and lead lives of leadership and service immediately after graduation.”
“We, at Morehouse, see the Student Success Program as an important step toward improving outcomes for our graduates and addressing the income disparities that people of color experience when they are overburdened by debt,” Thomas continued.
The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) states that 80 percent of students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) use federal loans to help fund their education. UNCF also found that HBCU graduates borrow up to $26,266 on average to help fund their education, which is twice as much as non-HBCU students. Morehouse College further stated that its graduates often have student loan debt between $35,000 and $40,000.
Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the UNCF, said in a statement that Morehouse’s new program should be offered at other HBCUs and liberal arts institutions. The college is currently talking to philanthropists, corporate partners and other supporters who have expressed interest in donating to the fund.
“Morehouse’s program to provide debt relief to new graduates is a fund-raising opportunity that should be studied and duplicated nationally,” Lomax said in a statement. “The impact of such a gift, particularly for minority or economically disadvantaged families, could accelerate the growth of a more diverse and robust middle class.”
In June, the UNCF partnered with African Pride and JFM Curl Peace to create the UNCF Wear Your Crown with Confidence Loan Forgiveness and Scholarship program, which would provide one million dollars in financial aid debt relief for three years to students or graduates of HBCUs.
President Thomas said Morehouse is looking forward to seeing how well the new program works for its students.
“We look forward to charting the progress of those who receive generous support from the Student Success Program,” Thomas said in a statement. “We encourage those who receive gifts to pay it forward and help upcoming classes to enjoy a significant level of financial independence from student loan debt.”
During Morehouse College’s 135th commencement ceremony in May, commencement speaker Robert F. Smith, a billionaire investor, announced that he and his family would pay off the student debt for the entire graduating class.
“We’re going to put a little fuel in your bus,” Smith said towards the end of his address to the Class of 2019, according to The New York Times. “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”
Smith told the graduates during the ceremony that he knows they will pay it forward, stating that the students need to take care of their community.
“Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward, because we are enough to take care of our own community,” he said. “We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American dream, and we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds.”
Thomas called Smith’s announcement a “liberation gift” that will allow the graduates to go into the world to help support their families, CNN previously reported. Smith’s gift is estimated to cost up to $40 million, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
“When you have to service debt, the choices about what you can go do in the world are constrained,” Thomas previously told CNN. “[Smith’s gift] gives them the liberty to follow their dreams, their passions.”
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.