Cheyney to use stimulus money to erase unpaid student bills

Browne Hall on the quad at Cheyney University

Browne Hall on the quad at Cheyney University. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Cheyney University, the nation’s oldest historically Black college, has announced that it will erase unpaid student bills since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The southeastern Pennsylvania university said on its Facebook page Friday that in light of the hardships students and their families have experienced, it will forgive student balances from the spring 2020, fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters.

“The university will use funds it received through the federal stimulus package to settle those accounts,” the announcement said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Cheyney president Aaron Walton said he expected roughly $400,000 to be spent for the benefit of about 180 students, who would see an average debt of more than $2,200 forgiven.

“Our students have gone through a lot over the past 18 months, and we want to do whatever we can to lighten the burden,” Walton said. “With this financial weight lifted from our students, we look forward to seeing them on campus in the upcoming semester with their minds focused on their studies, not their debt.”

Other institutions have also been using millions in stimulus funds they received to aid students whose educations may have been disrupted over the past year and a half. Some schools have compensated students for lost wages or helped them avoid borrowing for upcoming semesters while others have addressed outstanding student bills.

Cheyney, which has about 550 students on a campus straddling Chester and Delaware counties, was founded in 1837. Alumni include civil rights activist Octavius V. Catto; Bayard Rustin, a chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington; and “60 Minutes” broadcast journalist Ed Bradley.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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