New program to help former students eliminate debt while finishing degrees, certificates
Henry Ford College has partnered with two Detroit area universities to form a debt relief program aimed at former students to help them complete their degree or certificate programs.
The program, announced today, will provide relief of up to half of student loan debt for former students enrolling at HFC, and up to $1,500 for former students enrolling at four-year Wayne State and Oakland universities.
The program, coordinated by the Detroit Regional Chamber, targets the 693,000 adults across the Detroit region with college credits, but no degree, by offering debt forgiveness of previously incurred educational debt at WSU, OU and HFC provided that students enroll at any of these three institutions, remain current on their new higher education financial obligations, and make progress toward degree or certificate completion.
There is no cap to the number of students that can participate; and, participating institutions agree to share academic transcripts with other participating institutions for students enrolled in the program, if students agree to enroll in a payment plan.
HFC has a history of offering debt forgiveness opportunities to students, and has found success in student persistence, awards conferred, and student transfers. Between 2013 and 2017, more than 83 percent of debt-forgiveness students persisted through at least one semester, and more than 50 percent completed an HFC credential or transferred to another institution to pursue additional education.
“Two of our core goals at Henry Ford College are reducing barriers to educational access, and connecting students with meaningful career paths,” HFC President Russell Kavalhuna said. “When we implemented a debt-forgiveness program six years ago, many students successfully completed their HFC programs and transferred to other universities.
“This new partnership will further strengthen our university and industry connections, support student degree attainment, and help create the future workforce Michigan needs.”
Individuals with debt from HFC, WSU or OU should go to www.detroitdrivesdegrees.com/comeback to fill out the Reconnect Form and will hear from a representative to help them navigate.
The effort is part of the DRC’s region-wide goal to improve the postsecondary attainment rate from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2030.
“One of the most effective ways to increase our region’s education attainment level is to remove barriers to those adults who already have some college credits to be able to complete their degree or certificate program,” DRC President and CEO Sandy Baruah said. “This multi-institution debt forgiveness program will be an important element of moving our region’s educational attainment rate to the 60 percent goal.”
WSU’s debt forgiveness program, Warrior Way Back, announced last spring will be integrated into this multi-institutional regional effort.
“Since Wayne State University announced our groundbreaking ‘Warrior Way Back’ debt-forgiveness initiative last year, higher education institutions across the country have sought to implement similar programs, but Detroit is the first to develop a community-wide partnership,” WSU President M. Roy Wilson said. “We know that today’s students are more diverse than ever, and this partnership is a powerful tool for promoting greater educational equity.”
OU will begin its debt-forgiveness initiative, Golden Grizzlies Graduate program, this spring. The program will increase access, affordability and opportunity in three ways: connecting with students who have outstanding debt; incentivizing students who do not have debt and want to come back to school; and, offering grants to current students who have debt.
“The challenge is to create responsive ways to support students as they decide on how best to deal with debt and other issues that may be obstacles in completing their degrees,” OU President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz said. “These three types of grants assist with students in debt and offer ways for current students – who have loans – to manage their debt.”
The DRC is doing ongoing outreach to additional institutions in the region to create a broader footprint of regional institutions that are willing to participate and create their own debt forgiveness program. Interested institutions should contact Melanie D’Evelyn at [email protected]