Langston University to Clear Over $4m in Student Debt

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Langston University announced earlier this week that they’ll be clearing student debt.

In a public letter, the President of the HBCU, Kent J. Smith Jr., said that over $4.5 million of debt will be removed from students’ loan bills. Now marking the second time that the school has announced debt forgiveness, a total of $9.2 million has been cleared over the last two years. 

In 2021 alone, $4.6 million of student debt was erased as the world continued its lockdown following the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The newest round of the initiative is being covered with funds from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, otherwise known as HEERF, according to Smith. Created in 2020 by the federal government, HEERF was made specifically to help college students with financial pay throughout the pandemic. 

In his statement, Smith detailed the students that will be receiving the benefits of the initiative; students that studied at Langston University throughout the summer 2022, fall 2022 and spring 2023 will have their debt cleared regardless of whether they are still at the HBCU or not. 

“Throughout the pandemic, our institution has sought ways to lessen the burden and remove barriers to degree completion for our students,” said Smith in his public announcement. “The HEERF award allows us to bring balances for students enrolled in a ‘pandemic semester’ to zero.”

Langston University is one of many HBCUs that have decided to use its federal funding to clear the student debt accumulated during the pandemic. In 2021, Saint Augustine cleared about $9 million of student debt with HEERF. Meanwhile, South Carolina State University eliminated almost $10 million, totaling $9.8 million in debt cleared. 

The HEERF funds were given to HBCUs as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Also known as the CARES Act, this bill, passed by Congress on March 27 of 2020, gave over $2 trillion in aid to the people in response to the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Of this $2 trillion fund, about $14 billion went to supplying enough money for HEERF. 

Throughout the course of two years, this money was supplied to public colleges and universities that were most negatively impacted by the pandemic and had the greatest need. About 90% of the funds went to HBCUs as they were already suffering from underfunding pre-pandemic.

 “When we invest in stronger support for our students, we help remove barriers to their success so that they can stay on track with their studies, complete their degrees, and ultimately, build rewarding careers,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona per a public statement.

The last of the HEERF grants were handed out on July 13, 2022.

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