Hampton University will use coronavirus relief to pay off any outstanding balances undergraduate students owe the school.
Many historically Black colleges and universities have taken similar steps in recent weeks, including Virginia State University and Virginia Union University. HBCU leaders have cited the unequal burden of student debt in using the funds for debt relief.
The U.S. Department of Education opened the door to similar moves after saying in May that colleges could use relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to pay off student debt or give emergency grants to students.
The law, which Congress passed in March, includes additional money specifically for HBCUs. Hampton is slated to get over $27 million in grants on top of the $10 million in other funds it already was getting through federal pandemic relief.
Black college graduates owe more in college debt on average and face more challenges paying it off, a gap that grows after graduation. They have about $52,000 in student loans on average four years after graduation, according to a 2016 Brookings Institute analysis — about $25,000 more than white graduates.
In a letter to students, Hampton President William Harvey said he recognized the challenges that students faced in the past year, when the university went mostly virtual.
“It is our hope that these funds will assist our students in continuing their Hampton experience and enjoying a seamless transition back to campus,” Harvey wrote.
Continuing undergraduates who were enrolled at the end of the spring semester are eligible. To have fund applied, students will have to take some steps, which he said the dean of admissions will announce later.
Matt Jones, 757-247-4729, email@example.com