Florida A&M erases $16M in debt for students

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It is a relief to graduate from college, but Florida A&M University students had an additional reason to smile.

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Larry Robinson, president of the HBCU, announced during commencement ceremonies for Class of 2020 graduates on Saturday that the university has provided more than $16 million to erase outstanding debts for tuition and fees, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Robinson made the announcement toward the end of the first of four summer commencement ceremonies, the newspaper reported.

William Hudson, FAMU’s vice president for student affairs, said the money went toward paying off students’ outstanding tuition and fee balances during the 2020-2021 school year, WCTV reported.

“For the past year and a half, the university has provided over $16 million in student support and debt relief as a result of the federal CARES Act,” Robinson during Saturday’s in-person commencement ceremony. “Some of you will be leaving us with a whole lot of debt that some of your predecessors and I want you to understand how much, how important that is to us, allowing you to go out into the world, and get off to a much better start than you might otherwise, and for those of you who are staying with us, that’s going to be a tremendous opportunity for you as well.”

It was unclear how many students would benefit from the debt relief funding, the Democrat reported.

The American Rescue Plan Act allotted almost $40 billion in higher education relief funds, including more than $2.2 billion going to Florida colleges and universities, the newspaper reported. An additional $3 billion was earmarked for historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities and other minority-serving schools, according to the Democrat.

“Clearing student account balances from the previous school year was a way of practicing our motto of ‘Excellence with Caring’ by supporting students and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hudson said in a news release. “It keeps them from having to get loans to pay off their unpaid balance. It’s been a tough year for our students and their families.”

FAMU’s action is similar to those taken at other universities nationwide, including several HBCU institutions such as Clark Atlanta University and Virginia State University.

The action by FAMU mirrors similar steps being taken at universities across the country, including several Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Clark said it was canceling student debts from the spring 2020 semester through the 2021 summer semester, the Democrat reported. VSU said it is using CARES Act funding to erase student debts for more than 1,300 students, the newspaper reported.