Chicago State University started the new year erasing student debt from last year due to the pandemic. The university administration approved $500,000 towards a program for qualifying students experiencing hardship and helped students clear $150,000 in debt.
“COVID-19 is a pandemic on top of a crisis,” said Zaldwaynaka (“Z”) Scott, Esq., president of CSU. “Between 2013 and 2019, there was a 34% drop in enrollment of Illinois Black students in higher education, which does not include what has happened since the pandemic. In addition, COVID has put extreme financial pressure and stress on so many, decreasing their accessibility to an education that is specifically designed to create economic mobility.”
Brittanie Van Zant, a senior majoring in African American Studies, was one of many students whose debt was eliminated through the debt relief program. Van Zant is scheduled to graduate in Fall 2021. “It was a huge sigh of relief. I don’t have to worry about waiting another semester, and I’m so close to completing my degree. Unfortunately, the pandemic affected my focus. I had to pivot like everyone else. I have three young children that are virtual learning, and I’m taking a full course load, which was difficult during the pandemic,” said Van Zant.
The CSU Debt Relief Program is funded by the Higher Education Relief Fund III, authorized by the American Rescue Plan that centers on juniors and seniors who were enrolled in Spring 2020 with a GPA of 2.0 or higher that are a few classes away from graduating in Spring 2021 but had to discontinue their education due to the pandemic.
Qualified students were contacted by the University and offered a one-time student debt relief. Students who accepted received access to optional financial literacy resources. Chicago State University, founded in 1867, is the oldest public University in the Chicago Metropolitan area. The University’s five colleges offer over 70 undergraduate and graduate degree-granting and non-degree programs. CSU is committed to equity in education, serving as the only U.S. Department of Education-designated four-year Predominantly Black Institution in Illinois. The ranking demonstrates the University’s continued value to students and the State of Illinois by a Harvard economist that places CSU in the top 4% of public and private universities nationwide in supporting its graduates’ economic mobility. The University serves as a prominent community anchor and civic space on the greater south side of Chicago by leading many athletic, educational, cultural, and recreational activities.
Tammy Gibson is a black history traveler and author. Find her on social media @SankofaTravelher.