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Harris-Stowe using pandemic funds to cancel student debt

Harris-Stowe University in St. Louis is using federal pandemic relief funds to eliminate student debt from the last academic school year, school officials said.

Harris-Stowe, one of Missouri’s two historically Black universities, announced it used the funds to cancel about $330,000 in debt, an average of about $1,076 per student, KCUR reported.

The state’s other historically Black university, Lincoln University in Jefferson City, announced in July that it was using federal pandemic relief funds to cancel about $1.5 million in student debt for nearly 930 students.

Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith, Harris-Stowe’s interim president, said the burden of student debt caused by the pandemic led to low enrollment at the school this fall.

“Many of our students were saying they couldn’t work — because of COVID-19, they lost their jobs,” said Smith. “As a result they could not make payments towards their balances for the previous semester or the semesters which were impacted by COVID-19.”

Smith said the school officials spent most of the week after it made the announcement convincing students and their parents that it wasn’t a hoax. Eventually the school received numerous calls and letters of gratitude, she said.

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