Florida A&M President Larry Robinson Eliminates $16M of Student Debt

Larry Robinson, president of Florida A&M University (FAMU), announced at a commencement ceremony on Saturday that the school has covered over $16 million in student debt and unpaid account balances during the 2020-2021 school year.

The university in Tallahassee used money from the Federal Cares Act initiative, which has provided COVID-19 relief funds to organizations that have helped pay for students' costs.

"Clearing student account balances from the previous school year was a way of practicing our motto of 'Excellence with Caring' by supporting students and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic," FAMU Vice President for Student Affairs William E. Hudson Jr. said in a statement.

On top of the money the school received in the Biden administration's CARES Act, the university also received a portion of the $1 billion dedicated to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), according to WMAQ-TV.

"I want you to understand how important it is to us, allowing you to go out into the world and get off to a much better start than you might have otherwise," Robinson said to the new FAMU graduates.

Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson surprises graduates with $16M student debt relief announcement.

It comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and other Dem lawmakers call for Biden to #CancelStudentDebt. pic.twitter.com/Luf0h1TEAL

— The Recount (@therecount) August 2, 2021

The university became one of the many HBCUs that have recently been clearing away student account balances, as schools like Clark Atlanta University and Wilberforce University have done the same.

Student debt has been at the forefront of Democrats' minds recently as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) have pushed for President Joe Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for all federal student loan borrowers.

According to CNBC, Americans have roughly $1.7 trillion in student debt, and the pandemic resulted in the suspension of payments that helped millions of people afford their costs of living.

"The choice about what to pay will fall hardest on the most vulnerable among us," Warren said.

Advocates for loan forgiveness said that the federal loans put disproportionate burdens on people of color, and according tofederal data, Black college graduates have nearly $25,000 more in student debt than white graduates.

According to CNBC, Biden has called on Congress to forgive up to $10,000 in student loans per borrower.

"All President Biden has to do is flick his pen, sign it," Schumer said, but the decision is not as easy as it seems.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated last week at a news conference that the power to cancel student loan debt does not fall solely on the president.

"People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not," Pelosi said. "He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress."

Newsweek reached out to Florida A&M University for further comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Advocates Demand Joe Biden Cancel Student Debt
Florida A&M University paid over $16 million in student funds as a part of the federal CARES Act. Above, advocates display hand-painted signs and messages on the Ellipse in front of the White House to call on President Joe Biden to sign an executive order to cancel student debt on June 15, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We The 45 Million