LANGSTON, Okla. (KFOR) – Langston University is using federal COVID relief funds to clear more than $4.6 million in student debt, school officials announced Friday.
Any student who enrolled in classes from the summer of 2021 to the spring of 2020 has had their account balance cleared to zero. That includes newly graduated alumni.
“We had no idea that our university was working on our behalf to make this possible,” senior Havalyn Frierson said. “I received the email along with everyone else that they had cleared our student debts … immediately all of our group chats were going off like, ‘Did you guys see this?’”
Frierson, who was also crowned the 75th Miss Langston University this past April, says more than 70 percent of Langston students are the first in their families to go to college. She says this initiative will allow many LU students to return and get their education when they wouldn’t otherwise be financially able to.
“I did have some friends [who] weren’t able to come back to school because the finances were too expensive for them,” Frierson said. “So, I know this is gonna allow a lot of students to come back.”
Today’s announcement is also welcome news to parents. Sharon Jackson has twin girls who are currently sophomores at Langston. Before today, she had concerns on how their family was going to pay for school.
“I found out that they accrued $3,500 for their summer fees, and I was in shock,” Jackson said. “I was like, ‘How am I gonna pay for this?’ When I saw this message this morning, I was like, ‘This has to be a miracle.’”
This money to pay off students’ debts comes from the Higher Education Emergency Relief fund, or HEERF, III HBCU Award. University president Kent Smith Jr. says after how difficult the past year has been on students, this opportunity to change multiple lives of the Langston family was the right thing to do.
“For a lot of our students, even though we are a very affordable four-year institution, a lot of our students still struggle,” Smith said. “[They] work two and three jobs — and even their families — to help pay for the cost or pay for the bill. I can tell you…my email…I cant respond quick enough with students and family saying ‘I’m emotional’ and saying ‘Thank you.’”
Now, Smith says, countless Langston Lions will be able to focus solely on classes and getting their degree.
“I imagine there are thousands of happy people right now who, literally in the stroke of an email, are finding out that their balances are paid in full.”