HBCU Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

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Updated on June 29, 2022

Students who attend historically Black colleges and universities borrow nearly twice the amount of student loan debt as their peers at non-HBCUs. Black borrowers also earn less than their white peers, default at a higher rate, and take much longer to pay back the debt — which hobbles their efforts to invest, purchase a home, save for retirement, and so on.

On the campaign trail, President Joe Biden promised* to address this racial wealth gap by forgiving all federal student loan debt for HBCU students who earn less than $125 thousand annually.

Two years into office, Biden has yet to make good on his word.

That failure may have more to do with politics than it does with desire. The president simply may not have the political capital to forgive billions of dollars in federal loans with a pen stroke. But he has used his authority — at least during the pandemic — to implement piecemeal fixes that have transformed several existing forgiveness programs and have led to the Education Department wiping out $25 billion in debt for hundreds of thousands of borrowers.

Schools like Wilberforce University and Clark Atlanta University have used stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan to wipe out millions of institutional student debt for thousands of Black students. Plus, private donors, like the Debt Collective and billionaire Robert F. Smith have pledged funds that have cleared the balances of thousands of recent HBCU graduates.

So while HBCU student loan forgiveness isn’t a thing, there are debt forgiveness opportunities that former students of HBCUs can benefit from to alleviate the financial burden they carry for years after leaving school.

Learn More: How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness

*Biden promised to do the same for all federal student loan borrowers earning less than $125 thousand and who attended two- and four-year public colleges and other minority-serving institutions.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Best for: HBCU alumni who work for a nonprofit or the government.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness forgives public servants’ remaining federal student loan balance tax-free after making 120 qualifying payments. The program wasn‘t effective at first, but the Education Department created a temporary waiver that‘s helped thousands of borrowers eliminate billions of dollars in student debt.

Learn More: Limited PSLF Waiver

Income-Driven Repayment Forgiveness

Best for: HBCU alumni with federal student loans.

You can still get your federal loans forgiven if you don’t work in public service, but it will take twice as long. Income-driven repayment plans cap monthly payments at a portion of your discretionary income and erase your remaining balance after 20 to 25 years of payments.

As was true with the public service program, few borrowers initially got their loans forgiven two decades after making payments. But the Education Department recently introduced a one-time account adjustment it estimates will immediately forgive the debts of thousands of borrowers and push millions closer to forgiveness in the next few years. Read more about the IDR account adjustment

Learn More: Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness

Total and Permanent Disability Forgiveness

Best for: HBCU alumni who suffer a physical or mental disability that prevents them from working full-time.

The federal government will cancel your remaining student loan debt if you become totally and permanently disabled, physically or mentally. To be eligible for a disability discharge, you must provide documentation from your doctor, the Social Security Administration, or the Veterans Administration proving your disability.

Learn More: What Disabilities Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness?

Recent HBCU debt relief

Although there isn’t a formal loan forgiveness program for students at HBCUs, the actions taken by private donors and the Biden administration have contributed millions in student loan cancellation over the past few years for those students. For example:

  • May 2019 – billionaire Robert Smith established a grant to pay off the student debt for Morehouse College’s graduating class.

  • May 2020 – Clark Atlanta University, Delaware State University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Langston State University, Philander Smith College, Shaw University, Trinity Washington, South Carolina State University, and Wilberforce University canceled institutional student loan debt and fines owed to those schools by the classes of 2020 and 2021.*

  • April 2021 – the U.S. Department of Education discharged $1.6 billion of debt provided to schools that participate in a program that provides HBCUs with access to capital financing or refinancing to repair or construct campus buildings.

  • September 2021 – entertainer Nick Cannon partnered with the United Negro College Fund and the Thurgood Marshall College fund to pick up the tab for a handful of college students at Saint Augustine’s University, North Carolina A&T State University, Winston-Salem State University, and other historically Black colleges.

  • May 2022 – an anonymous donor paid off the account balances for the graduating class at Wiley College.

  • May 2022 – the Debt Collective eliminated $1.7 million in unpaid student balance owed by Black women to Bennett College.

*The schools used the $5 billion aid created from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to cover the largesse.

Bottom Line

Black college graduates leave school owing more student loan debt than their peers across other racial groups. Unfortunately, there aren’t forgiveness programs that specifically benefit them. But they can exploit the existing opportunities to shed their debt.

Let’s talk if you need help getting your loans forgiven. Schedule a call so we can work together to find a plan that fits your budget and helps you pay off your student loans faster

UP NEXT: What Increases Your Student Loan Balance?

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