As students at Clark Atlanta University prepare to go back to school this August, they are gratefully checking college fees off their list of things to worry about. The President of the University recently announced the administration is clearing student account balances for spring 2020 through summer 2021 to help students continue their education through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Educational institutions were deeply affected by the pandemic. From the faculty to students, everyone had to quickly adapt to the drastic changes of the campus life community. Students nationwide had to attend college from their bedrooms, making them question if college is even worth it anymore. The number of enrollment applications reflected this doubt, as they were the lowest in history.
President George T. French Jr. of Clark Atlanta University, a historically black college (HBCU), understood the burdens the pandemic placed on the goals students sought out to receive a higher education and wanted to combat any reasons for those who no longer saw the value in one. He said in a press release, “We understand these past two academic years have been emotionally and financially difficult on students and their families due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That is why we will continue to do all we can to support their efforts to complete their CAU education…”
In addition to clearing balances, the university has provided emergency financial aid dollars, refunded a pro-rated amount of housing and meal charges for Spring 2020, purchased 4,000 laptops from Dell Computers for every financially enrolled student and purchased hotspots to give students with limited or no internet access in their homes.
How is the university able to make this miracle happen? Clark Atlanta was one of the school’s Mackenzie Scott, ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, donated to after their divorce. In total, the school received $15 million – the largest donation ever received in history according to the Saporta Report. Most recently, the university announced a $5 million grant from Google to increase diversity in STEM. The university also had a considerable amount of support from the federal government under the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
The CARES Act, which stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was passed in March 2020 to alleviate some of the economic burdens experienced in the pandemic. The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill included a section to support higher education institutions, emphasizing historically Black colleges and universities.
Sticking to his mantra student’s first, the substantial donations unquestionably went to students. “It’s like someone is actually looking out for me and I appreciate that.”, said Autymn Epps, STA’s undergraduate president when sharing her feelings about the good news. For alumni, they felt proud of the decision their alma mater has made to help young men and women succeed academically and professionally.
Students at other universities are hoping this turns into an ongoing trend as Clark Atlanta is just the latest to announce clearance of student account balances. So far, at least 11 HBCUs are making an effort to reduce their students’ debt.
To name a few, Spelman College, an all-women HBCU will clear outstanding student balances for the 2020-2021 academic. Shaw University is planning to relieve a total of $116,000 in debt for its graduates. South Carolina State and Wilberforce University shared their decisions of clearing college fees for their students earlier this summer.
Many are hoping more universities will follow in Clark Atlanta’s footsteps and relieve the financial burdens at their institutions.