SC State University hopes debt forgiveness will help boost enrollment

The university announced this week it was forgiving nearly $10 million in student debt
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 3:32 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2021 at 7:19 PM EDT
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ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WCSC) – Leaders at South Carolina State University are hoping this week’s student debt forgiveness announcement will help bring more students back to campus this fall and beyond.

On Thursday, the university announced it would be forgiving $9.8 million in student debts using $4 million in CARES Act funding and $5.8 million it received from the American Rescue Plan.

Most of those students, the university said, were continuing students who had not re-enrolled or had dropped out entirely due to debt.

While the debt forgiveness program will not apply to student loans, it will remove one barrier between students and completing their education whether at South Carolina State or elsewhere, interim president Alex Conyers said.

“The federal money came with some very, very specific guidelines,” he said. “Loans… it was outside of the limit. It was very specific, and so I made a decision. I adopted the Red Cross model which is doing the most good for the most people, and I decided to look for an avenue that I do could do the most good for the most students.”

Rising senior Ariel Robinson, a biology major, said when she heard the news she realized it would help her graduate debt-free.

That’s especially important as she eyes medical school to become a pediatrician.

“I really didn’t owe a lot of money to the university, I would say between $4,000 to $5,000. So it wasn’t as much as the other students that attend this university but it did take something off as well,” she said.

Rising junior Gabriel Million, an elementary education major, also praised the move which he said will allow him to focus on his education and not worry about an outstanding parking fine and other financial needs.

“Listen, when I first heard about the news, I was screenshotting. I actually sent it to my cousin. I was like ‘Look at this.’ I was like, ‘We already have a new president. There’s already changes coming to the university,’ which I think is important for enrollment,” he said.

Enrollment has been a recurring issue for the historically Black university. Campus officials said it had been rebounding in the years leading up to the pandemic, but COVID-19 erased those gains.

Conyers said enrollment is the lifeline of the university, adding he considers his job to be the “number one recruiter.”

Making the decision to forgive debt was taking care of business, Conyers said.

“You’ve got to take care of students, and I could not wait another day because every day that I would have waited would have given students less time to get ready if he or she wants to return August 13,” he said.

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