Delaware State University announced a second round of funds available for debt relief for more than 1,100 qualified students. The availability of $2.9 million was made possible by the federal CARES Act and can be used for a range of hardships caused by Covid-19, including tuition and housing expenses since the pandemic began in spring 2020.
Students who are Pell Grant eligible will receive $2,500; students who are not Pell eligible will receive $1,000. Pell Grants are awarded to students with “exceptional financial need.” Nearly half of Delaware State University students meet Pell Grant eligibility criteria.
“What we most want students and their parents to understand about this round of funding is the significance of this opportunity,” said Antonio Boyle, vice president for strategic enrollment management. “This funding allows students to work through a range of needs related to their education, the most significant of which is the ability to wipe out several thousand dollars in debt at one keystroke.”
This round of debt relief is not a one-time event, President Tony Allen emphasized. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve recognized our responsibility to make it possible for our students to keep moving toward graduation despite the tuition costs, housing, food, and tech insecurities that Covid-19 put in their way. With the constant advocacy of our Congressional delegation, the strong support of our corporate partners, and the unprecedented outpouring of giving from our alumni, we’ve been able to keep pace with their needs.”
Between March-June 2020, the university raised over $1.6 million in private funding for a university- sponsored Student Emergency Relief Fund. That fund provided instant support for students faced with an unanticipated move off campus. The university distributed over $200,000 worth of laptops, tablets, and portable WiFi devices to students with device and connectivity needs while working from home during the same period.
The university provided an additional $3.3 million in direct financial support to students throughout 2020. And in May 2021, Delaware State University became the first Historically Black College or University in the nation to make $735,000 available to clear the debts of 225 graduating seniors. This action sparked a nationwide round of HBCU debt cancellation, reaching tens of thousands of students at more than 20 other institutions.
A recent Brookings Institution study revealed that not only is student debt the primary cause of Black students not finishing college but that those debts are also “delaying or even preventing Black Americans from building wealth.”
Anas Ben Addi, the university’s Chief Financial Officer, pointed out that “Bridging the gap of a few thousand dollars, or sometimes as little as a few hundred, can be decisive in terms of keeping these young people in school and on track to graduate. Finding ways to do that is integral to the HBCU mission of enhancing social mobility.”
In total, the university has invested nearly $8.5 million in supporting students through the pandemic. “We aren’t finished yet,” Allen said. “As we continue to be supported by the administration and Congress, we will revisit the debt needs of our students, and we will be emphasizing to them and their families that managing these debts is critical to their ultimate success in achieving their dreams.”