Trinity Washington University used federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to fully pay off $2.8 million in Trinity balances for 535 undergraduate students who owe balances to Trinity.
“This is absolutely the right thing to do for our students,” said university President Patricia McGuire. “Trinity students will start the Fall 2021 semester with a fresh balance sheet on their Trinity accounts! Students accumulated balances during the pandemic, from March 2020 through May 2021. Many of our students lost their jobs at restaurants and other service locations, and others were also the primary financial support for their families, making it hard to pay their tuition bills. While students could register for the next semester, they still had balances. The federal government has provided funds through the American Rescue Plan that allows colleges and universities to help resolve student balances that were accrued during the pandemic. We want to wipe the slate clean so they can start the fall semester with a zero Trinity balance.”
Trinity’s tuition is the lowest among all private universities in the Washington region and provides substantial financial aid to students. Trinity annually awards more than $6 million in Trinity’s own grants and scholarships to D.C. students.
During the pandemic, Trinity also provided more than $2 million in emergency grants to students, free laptops to those who needed them, and other emergency support. The emergency grants came from the federal CARES Act as well as private sources. Trinity did not reduce any student financial aid packages. In addition, Trinity fully supported faculty and staff: Trinity did not cut or furlough any staff or reduce salaries or benefits during the entire pandemic.
Trinity is the only university in D.C. that is designated both a Predominantly Black Institution and a Hispanic Serving Institution. Trinity enrolls more than 1,800 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs, and 95% are Black, Hispanic and multi-racial. More than half of Trinity students are residents of the District of Columbia — Trinity educates more D.C. residents than any other private university. Reflecting the circumstances of poverty and marginalization that afflict communities of color, the median family income of full-time Trinity undergraduates is about $25,000; 80% are eligible for Pell Grants.
“Paying off student balances strongly aligns with Trinity DARE: Driving Actions for Racial Equity,” said President McGuire. “Trinity DARE focuses on specific strategies and actions that we are taking now, and will enlarge in the future, to promote racial equity for Trinity students and graduates. We believe that widening pipelines for our graduates to enter professions where persons of color are under-represented is one of the strongest contributions Trinity can make to improving the climate for racial equity more broadly. Black women carry the highest student debt burden in the country, and debt loads often inhibit their ability to complete degrees and become successful in their chosen professions. Reducing student debt burdens hastens degree completion and supports early career success, which ensures long-term growth and professional achievement.”
In an interview with Inside Higher Education, Trinity junior Annissa Young said that when she first saw the e-mail message, she wasn’t expecting to read that Trinity “would wipe out her debt,” and she is grateful and relieved. “Young took a screenshot of the email, which she received earlier this month, and sent it to her father, mother, aunt and boyfriend. ‘I was like, ‘Oh my god, oh my god, is this what I think it is?’… Young said her father, who works as a truck driver, had his hours reduced during the pandemic, which made it harder to afford her tuition payments. ‘He was so grateful’ to hear about the debt cancellation, she said, and his relief made her teary-eyed. ‘Now we’re getting back on our feet and learning about this,’ she said. ‘It really helped me and my family.’