Get All Access for $5/mo

Anonymous Donor Pays Off Student Debt For Entire Graduating Class: 'You No Longer Have a Balance' Graduates of the Wiley College class of 2022 were in for a major surprise over the weekend.

By Emily Rella Edited by Jessica Thomas

Victoria Ditkovsky | Shutterstock

It's a sad but true fact that the celebration and sense of accomplishment that comes with graduating college also often means the looming realization that student loans and debt have not, in fact, magically gone away.

But for the Wiley College Class of 2022, it looks like that's exactly what happened when an anonymous donor cleared the balances of the graduating class.

Wiley, which is a historically black college located in Marshall, Texas, hosted its 133rd Commencement Convocation over the weekend, where more than 100 students were set to walk the stage and earn their diplomas.

Related: Beyoncé and Peloton Team Up to Gift Fitness Classes to HBCU Students

Little did the graduates know, they would be receiving much more than just their degree.

"You are debt free, you do not owe the college a penny," Hermon J. Felton, president and CEO of Wiley College, told graduates in a surprise announcement during the ceremony. "If you have a balance, you had a balance. You no longer have a balance."

Felton's words were met with cheers and tears by the graduating class and their loved ones as it was revealed that students' balances were cleared by an anonymous donor.

Typical tuition, including room and board, costs $17,500 per student at Wiley, but the college reported that, due to pandemic-related challenges, many were unable to pay balances.

Related: Historically Black College Becomes First To Launch Its Own CBD Line

"Our commitment to our students goes beyond their time while they are enrolled. We are constantly communicating with donors to assist students in these ways so that they can begin their after-college experience with less debt," Felton said in a statement on behalf of the institution. "We are grateful for this anonymous donor who will assist the students in paying off their balances to Wiley College and help us achieve institutional goals of graduating our students with little to no debt."

The college estimates that the overall total of balances owed by the class of 2022 was around $300,000.

HBCUs (particularly private ones, like Wiley College) rely heavily on donations and gifts from alumni and other donors as graduates of these universities are more likely to suffer from a generational wealth gap.

"Even for families where the parents are college educated and have had steady employment, because they got a later start being able to generate wealth, they're able to do less for the next generation," Morehouse College president David A. Thomas told U.S. News & World Report. "Their kids, their nephews, etc. The effects ripple through the communities. To the positives for the white community and very much to the negative for the Black community."

According to data from College Tuition Compare, the average tuition (and fees) for HBCU graduates is around $15,043 for out-of-state students, with 50 of the nation's HBCUs being public and 51 being private.

Related: 20 Brands That Are Actually Making Progress on their Commitments to Serving the Black Community

Emily Rella

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior News Writer

Emily Rella is a Senior News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media. Her coverage spans features, business, lifestyle, tech, entertainment, and lifestyle. She is a 2015 graduate of Boston College and a Ridgefield, CT native. Find her on Twitter at @EmilyKRella.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Increase Productivity with This Microsoft 365 Subscription, Now $25 Off

It can make the entrepreneur life a lot easier.

Business News

Apple Pay Later Is Ending. Here's What's Taking Its Place.

The program was available for less than a year.

Leadership

This Artist Answered a Businessman's 'Powerful' Question — Then His Work Became 'the Poster Child for Juneteenth': 'Your Network Really Becomes Your Net Worth'

Reginald Adams was the executive director of a Houston-based art museum for more than a decade before he decided to launch his own public art and design firm.

Leadership

Harvard Business School Professor Says 65% of Startups Fail for One Reason. Here's How to Avoid It.

Team alignment isn't nice to have -- it's critical for running a successful business.

Business News

Here's What Companies Are Open and Closed on Juneteenth 2024

Since it became a holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized by some major corporations as a paid day off.

Growing a Business

I Hit $100 Million in Annual Revenue by Being More Transparent — Here Are the 3 Strategies That Helped Me Succeed

Three road-tested ways to be more transparent and build relationships that can transform your business — without leaving you feeling nightmarishly over-exposed.