Wilberforce University loans to be forgiven as part of COVID-19 relief bill

The fountain at Wilberforce, was moved to the current Wilberforce University campus location in 1974.  It was completed in 1909 on the original Brush Row Road campus to provide a source of water to students and faculty.   TY GREENLEES / STAFF
The fountain at Wilberforce, was moved to the current Wilberforce University campus location in 1974. It was completed in 1909 on the original Brush Row Road campus to provide a source of water to students and faculty. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Wilberforce University was recently notified that up to $25 million of its debt will be forgiven under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplement Appropriations Act.

The act, which former President Donald Trump signed in December, authorized nearly $82 billion for education. Of that amount, $1.3 billion was allocated to forgive Historically Black Colleges and Universities Capital Financing loans. Wilberforce is among 44 HBCUs that will see their loans forgiven.

“This significant reduction in the university’s debt will allow us to continue our path forward to a financially stable, high performing and sustainable Wilberforce University committed to providing an outstanding academic and student-engagement experience for the students we serve,” President Elfred Anthony Pinkard said.

ExploreWilberforce University looks to build on its history as it maps out a new future

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, who voted for the CRRSAA, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education in January, urging then-Acting Secretary of Education Mick Zais to move swiftly to forgive Wilberforce’s loans.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner

The school’s principal balance, interests and fees on the loan as of Dec. 27 will be eligible for forgiveness on March. 19. The $25 million represents 60% of the university’s total debt, which was incurred to improve student housing, the university said.

“Wilberforce is an iconic institution, not just for our community, but for our nation at large,” said Turner, vice-chair of the House HBCU Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers dedicated to securing proper resources and funding for the schools. “With increased financial independence and stability, Wilberforce University will remain a historic pillar of equity and justice.”

In recent years, Wilberforce, the nation’s first private HBCU, has struggled financially and has grappled with enrollment declines and other issues. But school officials recently launched a plan to transform the university by attracting more students, add new academic programs and raise funds.