Virginia Church Pays $100,000 Worth of Debt for Howard University Students

Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., decided to clear the debt of 34 Howard students.

95 percent of Howard students are on financial aid. About 4,000 church members fasted and prayed for 30 days, saving money to donate to something charitable.

They donated $100,000 to 34 students.

ore than 44 million borrowers collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the United States.

Data from the US Department of Education showed that 12 years after entering college, Black students who took on debt for their undergraduate education owed more on their federal student loans than they originally borrowed.

Studies also show Black students are more likely to borrow, less able to make progress on paying down their loans, and almost half defaulted on their loans. Many do not graduate.

Assistant minister Marc Lavarin, who has his own loans to pay back from Duke, said that “In many instances, it’s not their academic aptitude that’s keeping them back…it’s debt.”

Atlanta’s HBCU Georgia State University provides “micro grants” to students to keep them from dropping out. They report 86 percent of students who receive those grants graduate.

Some of the Howard students were not sure how they were going to graduate because they couldn’t complete tuition payments. But now, they can focus on their academics and their plans for the future after college.

Alfred Street Baptist Church was founded in 1803, and many of the HBCUs were founded in the 1800s, including Howard University, founded in 1867. The church hosts an annual HBCU College Festival, now in its 17th year, which is being held this month at the Washington convention center with over 10,000 students and families attending.

Lavarin said the idea of donating to Howard came to him during prayer.

“I thought, ‘What better way to celebrate Black History Month than investing in the young, Black heroes of HBCUs'” he said.

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