DeKalb, IL — Students at Wilberforce University, a private historically Black university in Ohio, graduated with no debt as a surprise from the university.
Wilberforce University President Elfred Anthony Pinkard announced the surprise at a commencement ceremony, which was attended by both 2020 and 2021 classes due to the pandemic.
“Because we are in awe of your strengths and perseverance. Because you have made your family and yourselves proud. Because you have shown you are capable of doing work under difficult circumstances. Because you represent the best of your generation, we wish to give you a fresh start,” Pinkard said in a video posted by CBS Newspath.
Students and attendees erupted in cheers at the news announced at the ceremony.
The total amount of debt cleared is more than $375,000 and 166 students graduated, according to the school. The university was able to wipe the debt through a number of scholarships, including from including the United Negro College Fund and Jack and Jill of America.
“I couldn’t believe it when he said it,” said Rodman Allen, a 2021 Wilberforce alumnus, in a statement. “It’s a blessing. I know God will be with me. I’m not worried. I can use that money and invest it into my future.”