The president of Wilberforce University announced that more than $375,000 in student debt has been wiped out for graduates of its classes of 2020 and 2021.
Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard made the stunning announcement at the end of their combined commencement ceremonies on Saturday.
“Because you have shown that you are capable of doing work under difficult circumstances, because you represent the best of your generation, we wish to give you a fresh start,” Pinkard said. “So, therefore, the Wilberforce University Board of Trustees has authorized me to forgive any debt.”
“Your accounts have been cleared,” he told the shocked new graduates, “and you don’t owe Wilberforce anything. Congratulations.”
Cheers immediately filled the gymnasium.
The bold move would only apply to debt owed directly to the university, while other funding sources like federal student loans would still be the responsibility of the borrower. Nonetheless, Wilberforce’s graduating students have still expressed their gratitude.
In a press release from the university, one brand-new alumnus, Rodman Allen, said, “I couldn’t believe it when he said it. It’s a blessing. I know God will be with me. I’m not worried. I can use that money and invest it into my future.”
Students of both Wilberforce’s class of 2020 and class of 2021 participated in Saturday’s graduation due to the coronavirus pandemic. In his remarks, Dr. Pinkard saluted their tenacity to preserve during the pandemic. “Because we are in awe of your strengths and perseverance,” he said. “Because you have made your family and yourselves proud.”
Funding for the university’s gift came from scholarships, generosity from alumni and organizations including the United Negro College Fund and Jack and Jill of America.
Wilberforce is the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans. Located in Wilberforce, Ohio, the university was founded in 1856.
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