Morehouse College is launching a fundraising and research initiative to help graduates pursue advanced degrees, start careers and build wealth without being burdened by undergraduate student loan debt.
The Student Success Program will solicit donations made specifically to reduce or eliminate the student loan debt of students, creating an opportunity for greater financial freedom for new alumni and their families.
Morehouse will study the impact of the cost of higher education on students and the freedom of choice that alumni experience in their careers when their student loan balances are paid in full or reduced to manageable levels.
Morehouse president Dr. David A. Thomas said the program “will provide students with a liberating gift that will wipe away or greatly reduce their student loans, allowing them to pursue their dreams and lead lives of leadership and service immediately after graduation.”
He added that it is “an important step toward improving outcomes for our graduates and addressing the income disparities that people of color experience when they are overburdened by debt.”
According to United Negro College Fund Research, 80 percent of HBCU students use federal loans to fund their education, compared to 55 percent of their peers at other private and state institutions. HBCU graduates also borrow nearly twice as much—$26,266 on average — than non-HBCU students. While one in four HBCU students borrows $40,000 or more to attend college, the student loan debt threshold of Morehouse students at graduation is between $35,000 and $40,000.
Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president and CEO, called the Student Success Program “a fund-raising opportunity that should be studied and duplicated nationally. The impact of such a gift, particularly for minority or economically disadvantaged families, could accelerate the growth of a more diverse and robust middle class.”
In May, Black billionaire investor Robert F. Smith, when receiving an honorary degree at the Morehouse commencement, announced that he would create a grant fund to pay off the student loan debt for the entire graduating class. Based on almost 70 percent of students taking out loans and average debt after graduation of about $26,000, the gift total may exceed $7 million.