Saint Augustine's University clears tuition balances for spring, summer and fall 2021 semesters

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- All Saint Augustine's University student account balances for spring, summer and fall 2021 will be cleared to reflect a zero-balance owed.

The university announced Monday that students will not carry a balance for 2021 spring, summer and fall semesters after all federal, state and private awards have been considered.

"We are pleased to offer this timely support to our students," said Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail, President of Saint Augustine's University. "At Saint Augustine's University, we are committed to delivering on our promise to be one of the nation's best universities for personalized education, student life and affordability."

How to watch Our America: The HBCU Experience on ABC11

Upon completion of FAFSA applications and Fall 2021 registration, the spring, summer and fall charges will have a zero balance.
"When the news hit my phone, I just wanted to jump out of my seat," McKenzie Estep, a rising St. Augustine's University.

Along with her full course load, Estep has been working at Food Lion and two other jobs during the pandemic -- to pay her own way through school. She said next semester's tuition bill would've meant about $6,000 she needed to pay -- likely with the help of a payment plan.

"Right now, I'm taking summer school. So the fact that they relieved those funds -- my summer school's been paid for and going into my fall semester I have nothing to worry about except getting my books," Estep said.

St. Aug's leaders told ABC11 that the university will use a big chunk of COVID-19 relief funding for higher education institutions to do this. It will spend roughly half of its $11 million in CARES Act funding.

"We're talking about changing lives here," said St. Aug's President Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail. She told ABC11 that the school wanted to do something big to offset the hardships of the pandemic on students -- many of whom come from low-income families.

"Can you imagine a family that has made a sacrifice to send their child to college this fall and we're going be able to tell them hold onto that because we're going to take care of that for you this semester. That gives that family a step up," Johnson McPhail said.

The goal of the initiative, Johnson McPhail says, is for students to have a zero balance owed. But every student won't receive the same amount of to reduce their total liability. The school is pledging to distribute the funding as "equitably" as possible.

For students who have already paid some or all of their upcoming tuition, Johnson McPhail said, "We will (credit) the money towards the next semester so that you will walk in with that towards the next semester."

"Students will start the year off with a level playing field," she said "And that's awesome for us."

School officials said students will still be eligible for financial aid.

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