In North Carolina, students at Bennett College with past-due tuition bills in collection will see $1.7 million of their debts erased.
A union of borrowers known as the Debt Collective purchased and paid off the student loans of nearly 500 Black women at Bennett, an all-women liberal arts HBCU in Greensboro.
Bennett College issued this statement about the cancellation:
“We understand that this has been an exceptionally challenging time and want to ease people’s burdens. The debts that were erased for these 462 individuals were debts owed directly to the school. These debts are different from federal and private student loans, which we do not have the ability to cancel because they are owned by the federal government.”
The group describes itself as a debtor’s union, with dues-paying members. It’s partially because of those funds that the collective was able to coordinate the buyout of the Bennett College debt.
The Debt Collective acquired the debt through a sister entity known as the Rolling Jubilee, a nonprofit that buys and discharges medical, carceral and other forms of consumer debt.
Braxton Brewington, a spokesman for the organization, said they chose Bennett College in North Carolina because Black women on average have higher student loan balances than any other group of borrowers. The debt cleared does not include federal student loans, only money owed directly to the school.
“These are the people that are really taking the brunt of the student debt crisis,” Brewington said.
Bennett College pulled $1.7 million in student debts the college had sent to collections and instead allowed the Rolling Jubilee to buy it. That price? $50,000, or about three cents on the dollar.
The Debt Collective’s model for eliminating student debts isn’t going to solve the debt crisis. Rather, Brewington said, the group’s hope is to highlight how cheaply and easily debt can be cleared.