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Harris-Stowe using pandemic funds to cancel student debt

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Harris-Stowe University 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 had 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,” Smith said. “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 had 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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