‘You are debt-free’: Anonymous donor pays off balances for Texas college grads

MARSHALL, Texas — Graduates from a historically Black college in Texas received a big gift at commencement, when they were told the balances of their tuition bills had been paid.

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In a news release, Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, said that an anonymous donor had cleared the balance for every one of the more than 100 graduates this weekend. The students had no idea that there had been a donation until the school’s president made the announcement at the school’s commencement ceremony.

“You are debt-free. You do not owe the college a penny. If you have a balance, you had a balance. You no longer have a balance,” Herman Felton Jr., the school’s president and CEO, said to students.

Wiley College said the total amount that the 2022 graduates had owed was $300,000.

“Our commitment to our students goes beyond their time while they are enrolled,” Felton Jr. said in a statement. “We are constantly communicating with donors to assist students in these ways so that they can begin their after-college experience with less debt.”

Wiley College is a historically Black liberal arts college founded in 1873, and has an affiliation with The United Methodist Church.

Wiley College is best known for inspiring the 2007 movie “The Great Debaters” starring Denzel Washington, The Associated Press reported. In 1935, Wiley prevailed over the University of Southern California’s powerhouse team during a time of deep segregation in the country, the AP reported.