April 30, 2019

Wayne State, partners create regional debt-forgiveness program to help returning students earn degrees

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Regional Chamber

Wayne State University has joined the Detroit Regional Chamber (DRC), Oakland University (OU) and Henry Ford College (HFC) to create a first-of-its-kind regional debt-forgiveness program in an effort to improve degree completion and remove barriers to continued education. The announcement was made during Lumina Foundation’s National Convening in Detroit on April 30.

The program 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 any of the participating institutions, provided that the students enroll at any of the participating institutions, remain current on their new higher education financial obligations, and make progress towards degree or certificate completion. 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. 

The regional debt forgiveness program grew out of WSU’s Warrior Way Back program, which was launched in May 2017 to allow former students with outstanding balances of less than $1,500 to re-enroll and “learn” away their past debt while earning a degree. To date, more than 100 students have reenrolled through the Warrior Way Back program.

“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,” said M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University. “We know that today’s students are more diverse than ever, and this partnership is a powerful tool for promoting greater educational equity.”

WSU, OU and HFC  have agreed to the following principles: 

  1. The institution’s debt-forgiveness plan is available to as many former students as would like to participate.
  2. The institution’s debt-forgiveness plan provides up to $1,500 of debt- forgiveness per student attending a four-year university or forgives half of the total debt owed by students attending a community college.
  3. Participating institutions agree 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.

"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," said 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% goal." 

Individuals with debt from any of the participating institutions should go to www.detroitdrivesdegrees.com/comeback to fill out the Reconnect Form.