Wayne State University in Detroit has joined Rochester’s Oakland University, Dearborn’s Henry Ford College, and the Detroit Regional Chamber to create a regional debt forgiveness program targeted at adults who have college credits but not degrees.
The program is designed to improve degree completion and remove barriers to continued education. An estimated 693,000 adults across metro Detroit have credits but no degrees and are eligible for forgiveness of previously incurred educational debt if they enroll at any of the participating institutions, remain current on their new higher education financial obligations, and make progress toward degree or certificate completion.
The three schools agreed that the debt-forgiveness plan is available to as many former students as would like to participate. The plan provides up to $1,500 of debt-forgiveness per student attending a four-year university half of the total debt owed by students attending a community college.
Participating institutions also agreed to release academic transcripts of indebted former students who wish to attend another institution that is part of the debt-forgiveness compact and who agree to enroll in a payment plan.
The effort is part of the chamber’s regionwide 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,” says Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the chamber. “This multi-institution debt forgiveness program will be an important element of moving our region’s educational attainment rate to the 60 percent goal.”
The regional debt forgiveness program grew out of WSU’s Warrior Way Back program, which was launched in May 2018, to allow former students with outstanding balances of less than $1,500 to re-enroll and not have to pay the debt back while earning a degree. More than 100 students have taken advantage of the program since.
“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 communitywide partnership,” says M. Roy Wilson, president of WSU. “We know that today’s students are more diverse than ever, and this partnership is a powerful tool for promoting greater educational equity.”
More information on the program is available here.