Student debt erased for former Bennett College students
DURHAM, NC — The Biden administration is nearing a final decision on whether to forgive $10,000 in student debt per borrower. This decision would provide relief to tens of millions of Americans.
In North Carolina, a group of activists recently came together to pay off debt for students who attended the state’s only historically black college for women, Bennett College.
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The Debt Collective erased $1.7 million in tuition debt for more than 460 former students of Bennett College, an HBCU for black women
New mom Denetta Lawson says debt forgiveness is a chance for her to finish college to improve her family’s future
According to the Federal Reserve, about 45 million Americans are burdened with some $1.7 trillion in student debt.
Denetta Lawson, new mum to 6-week-old twin girls, received a phone call that would change her life.
“I got the phone call. And I was like, ‘Wait. Is this a prank? Am I being ripped off?’ Because you know, there are so many scams,” Lawson said.
She is one of more than 460 women who went to Bennett College whose tuition debt is now cleared.
The Debt Collective, an advocacy group that fights for debt cancellation nationwide, is behind the initiative. More than $1.7 million in debt is forgiven, with no strings attached, for Lawson and other former students.
“I couldn’t do anything but thank God,” Lawson said. “It’s such a great chance for a fresh start, you know what I mean?” Especially the girls [her daughters] can see it’s not too late to start over if you have to, as long as you focus on finishing, and you know, keep a goal in mind.
Growing up, Lawson received a lot of support at Henderson Grove Baptist Church. While motherhood keeps her very busy these days, she wanted to make sure her daughters got their start in a place that has always pushed Lawson to do better.
“They always showed us how important it was to go to school, to go to college after high school. They always gave us SAT prep classes, we had great mentors here,” she said, recalling her teenage years in church.
Lawson went to Bennett College in 2011 right out of high school. During her first semester, she struggled to maintain her grades. Although she improved academically in her second semester, she decided to drop out after her freshman year due to high tuition.
“At the end of the day, the tuition was very, very high,” Lawson said. “It’s a private school, and I hated not being able to go back. I just know it wasn’t something I could have done. I found myself stuck with debt.
About 45 million Americans are currently burdened with some $1.7 trillion in student debt. Lawson says she feels guilty for not finishing school. The Debt Collective has paid off her remaining balance of around $5,000, which she says is a fresh start. She wants to go to college and get an engineering degree.
“Just to set a good example for my daughters, letting them know that anything is possible,” Lawson said. “It’s never too late, no matter how distracted you might be. Life always happens. But just know that it’s never too late to start over.
Recently, the US Department of Education canceled nearly $6 billion in debt for students who attended Corinthian Colleges, which no longer exist. The Debt Collective says it shows President Joe Biden can automatically cancel student debt.
The group hopes the president will keep his campaign promise to cancel at least $10,000 in student debt. President Biden also said he would forgive all federal student loan debt if a student attended a historically black college and university or HBCU.