Both schools said they are using funding provided by the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to clear the balances. The federal government in March 2020 approved about $14 billion in the fund to help financially struggling college students and their schools through the pandemic. An additional $21 billion was added to the fund in January.
Clark Atlanta University, Fort Valley State University and Spelman College are among the Georgia schools that have cleared account balances for students during the same time period.
Savannah State, a public university with about 3,500 students, said the balances of 220 former students were cleared, a total of just over $331,000. Morehouse, a private college for men with about 2,200 students, declined to say how many students will be impacted by the decision to clear the balances, which took effect Friday. The college said it does not affect payments made or due for the fall 2021 semester and does not refund payments already made to resolve past due balances.
Both schools, like many HBCUs, enroll a higher percentage of students from low-income households. About 80% of Savannah State students and 64% of Morehouse students have taken federal student loans to pay their college costs, according to federal data.