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South Carolina State University just became the latest school to act on the $1.7 trillion student-debt crisis in the country.
Last week, South Carolina’s only public Historically Black College or University (HBCU) announced it was wiping out $9.8 million in student debt, clearing the account balances of more than 2,500 students who were previously unable to afford returning to college. According to the press release, the vast majority of students who received notification of debt cancellation were either not yet registered for the next semester because of past-due account balances, or who have stopped attending college entirely because they couldn’t afford to pay.
“Our university was founded on the tenet of providing students with access to a quality affordable education,” Acting President Alexander Conyers said in a statement. “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.”
This debt cancellation was made possible through $4 million from President Donald Trump’s CARES Act and $5.8 million from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
Even though Biden has not yet enacted broad student-debt cancellation, a growing number of schools have been using his money to get the job done themselves. Insider reported in May that Delaware State University canceled over $700,000 of its students’ debt using Biden’s stimulus, and at least 11 HBCUs so far have done the same thing.
Leslie Young, a freshman at South Carolina State, said in the press release that without this debt cancellation, she would have had to sit out on the next semester.
“Honestly, hearing this news brings tears to my eyes,” Young said. “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.”
In terms of broad debt cancellation, the pandemic pause on student-loan payments is set to lift in October, and many Democrats are calling on the president to both extend the pause on payments and cancel $50,000 in student debt for every borrower.
“About 40% of people with student loan debt weren’t able to finish their degrees—so now they’re stuck trying to pay college-graduate-sized bills on high-school-diploma-sized salaries,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter. “We’re fighting to #CancelStudentDebt because people need relief.”