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Howard U. President Asks for Help With Debt

Just a couple of weeks before Howard University’s 147th commencement is set to take place, the school’s president e-mailed thousands of alumni on behalf of 180 graduating seniors.

President Wayne A.I. Frederick asked alumni to help the students pay off their debt so they can get their diploma.

The perspective graduates, who make up more than 10 percent of HU’s undergraduate class, were on target to finish all academic requirements. But they faced a financial barrier to obtaining degrees from the prominent HBCU.

“On account of an outstanding debt to the University, they are unable to be cleared for graduation despite the fact that by May 2015 they will have completed all of their academic requirements,” Frederick wrote in the e-mail. “[…] This promising group of aspiring professionals desperately needs your assistance in becoming financially cleared to participate in the May 2015 Commencement Exercises.”

100 percent of the tax-deductible donations will go toward financial clearance of the students’ debt. Frederick also described 23 cases of students who have final balances ranging from $313.50 to $27,871.75. He listed their home towns, majors, grade-point averages, outstanding balances and details about their financial situations.

“This promising group of aspiring professionals desperately needs your assistance in becoming financially cleared to participate” in the May 9 commencement, Frederick wrote last month.

In total, all 180 prospective graduates owed about $380,000 when Frederick sent the appeal in late April. While the HBCU collects approximately $15 million a year in donations, the institution has been under financial pressure in recent years.

Last month, Howard University eliminated 84 staff positions. Every dollar counts.

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