Story at a glance
- The South Carolina State University used federal funding to help forgive millions of dollars in outstanding student loans.
- The move is designed to help continuing students stay in class or re-enroll and graduate.
- President Biden has canceled an estimated $1.5 billion in student debt, with advocates asking him to continue as payments are scheduled to begin again.
With nearly $1.6 trillion dollars worth of loans saddling American college graduates as of 2020, South Carolina State University (SCSU) has decided to eliminate the outstanding debt of more than 2,500 continuing students.
Acting President Alexander Conyers said that this decision was largely motivated by the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are committed to providing these students with a clear path forward so they can continue their college education and graduate without the burden of financial debt caused by circumstances beyond their control,” he said in a press release. “Our university was founded on the tenet of providing students with access to a quality affordable education. That’s exactly what we intend to do. No student should have to sit home because they can’t afford to pay their past due debt after having experienced the financial devastation caused by a global pandemic.”
Ultimately, the school will clear $9.8 million in student debt. The university, a historically Black college (HBCU), will use $4 million from the CARES Act funding, along with $5.8 million awarded to the college from the American Rescue Plan to wipe students’ balances clean.
“Honestly, hearing this news brings tears to my eyes,” said Leslie Young. Young is a freshman at the school who did not attend class during the spring semester because she didn’t have tuition money. “My family is very low income. I was in a deep depression because school means everything to me. Without it, I felt like I was giving up on my dreams.”
Other testimonials included in the press release praise school leadership for helping students move forward freely in completing their education and building wealth following graduation.
Qualifying students will receive a notification of the aid on Wednesday. Many of these students have yet to register for the next semester due to outstanding debt or a lack of funding for tuition.
“This is a tremendous weight I won’t have to carry,” said Romaun Myers, a junior at SCSU. “I’m a first-generation college student, one of the only boys on my mom’s side of the family. I have to make it so I can provide for my family.”
President Biden campaigned on widespread student loan forgiveness, a popular platform among Democrats. He has made various advances in canceling loans for victims of education fraud at for-profit colleges, canceling a total of $1.5 billion in student debt.
Regardless, some lawmakers have urged Biden to extend the loan forbearance period enacted during the pandemic, citing a helpful pause in payments and interest as the country tries to recover from COVID-19. Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D) and Edward Markey (D) penned a letter to Biden asking that the current pause be extended to at least March 31, 2022, citing benefits to both borrowers and creditors.
“It is clear from the student loan servicer responses that the pause on payments and interest has provided economic relief for many borrowers,” the letter explained. “As the economy recovers from this unprecedented crisis, borrowers should not be faced with an administrative and financial catastrophe just as they are beginning to regain their footing. We strongly urge you to extend the pause on student loan interest and payments in order to allow time to begin to repair the broken student loan system.”