North Carolina Central University has cleared over $10 million in outstanding student tuition and fees as well as waived costs for its summer session, collectively benefiting more than 5,200 students, the school announced. 

The historically Black university’s decision is even more momentous in the face of an ongoing pandemic that has resulted in the loss of income for millions of households across America, and with families facing the harrowing prospect of eviction or foreclosure. A disproportionate share of these at-risk households are renters with low incomes and people of color, according to a recent report from Harvard University.

And a growing number of Black students are leaving college with a degree and years of debt from student loans that were needed to finance their education.

In a press release, the university pointed to Pew Research Center data that found African Americans as among the fastest-growing demographic of student loan borrowers.

Leaders at NCCU, one of the nation’s flagship historically Black colleges and universities, are mindful of the disproportionate challenges faced by its students as a consequence of the pandemic.

“The effects of the coronavirus pandemic, including financial hardships, had a tremendous impact on academic instruction,” David H. Jackson Jr., NCCU’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said in the release. “With the funding, students will graduate with a quality education and significantly less student loan debt.”

“NCCU is committed to student success and this effort speaks to student access and success, one of four focus areas included in the university’s strategic plan,” NCCU Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye, said in the release. “Students have experienced unprecedented difficulties during the pandemic and easing the financial burden of students will have a long-lasting impact.”

The university was able to assist students in clearing their balances with money from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), which is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (or CARES) Act, administrators said. 

“NCCU allocated approximately $8 million directly to 3,832 students, covering their unpaid balances,” according to the release. “An additional $2.4 million dollars of aid was earmarked for more than 1,450 students to cover the costs of summer session tuition and fees.”

School officials say the financial support aided more than 800 students who graduated in 2020 and after the spring semester.

Tahira A. Hyman, a senior nutrition and dietetics student, says the relief will help her graduate with less student loan debt than expected and avoid the economic burden falling on family members who have supported her academic journey.

“Receiving funding for spring and summer 2021 has allowed me to continue in my college education and relieve my mother from paying thousands of dollars in college tuition,” Hyman said in the release.

Another NCCU student, Gary Robinson, said the support means the difference between being burdened with student debt and being able to focus on coursework.

“Receiving assistance from NCCU made it possible to begin my studies during the pandemic without the stress of trying to find funds for tuition costs or taking out student loans,” Robinson said. “I greatly appreciate the support NCCU offers students.”

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