Story at a glance
- An anonymous donor has paid off the student loan balances for all of Wiley College’s class of 2022.
- Wiley College is based in Texas and is a historically Black, liberal arts school.
- Currently there’s more than $1.7 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the U.S.
One group of lucky college students received an unexpected announcement during their commencement ceremony: their student loans would be paid off by an anonymous donor.
Texas-based Wiley College, a historically Black, liberal arts school affiliated with The United Methodist Church, held its 133rd commencement ceremony on May 7 for more than 100 graduates. It was during that celebration that president and CEO Herman J. Felton, Jr. told audience members that their student loan balances had been completely cleared by an anonymous donor.
According to the school, tuition has been reduced over the past years to $17,500, which includes tuition, fees and room and board. Many students still graduate with debt, however, and the college said an estimated $300,000 was owed by the class of 2022.
“Our commitment to our students goes beyond their time while they are enrolled. We are constantly communicating with donors to assist students in these ways so that they can begin their after-college experience with less debt,” said Felton, in a statement.
“We are grateful for this anonymous donor who will assist the students in paying off their balances to Wiley College and help us achieve institutional goals of graduating our students with little to no debt.”
Wiley is the inspiration for the 2007 film “The Great Debaters,” which showcased the school’s first debate team which went on to challenge Harvard University in 1935.
Other colleges have offered different ways to lower or eliminate student debt for their students, with the University of California announcing free tuition for the state’s Native American students.
There is currently more than $1.7 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the U.S., and it’s held by more than 42 million Americans. However, recent surveys have found that debt isn’t evenly distributed, with 24 percent of Black adults indicating they have federal student loan debt while only 14 percent of white adults indicated the same.
Wisdom Cole, NAACP national director of youth and college, said the student debt crisis has become a “racial and economic justice issue” for Black Americans.
The rising cost of college has driven the student debt crisis, with an analysis by Georgetown University finding between 1980 and 2019 college fees rose by 169 percent — while wages for young workers aged 22 to 27 went up by 19 percent.
Currently, no payments are due for any federal student loans thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, which has allowed the White House to pause payments and set interest rates to zero. President Biden has indicated that he’s looking to forgive some student debt, after campaigning on erasing up to $10,000 per borrower.
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