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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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Wiley College Graduates Get Surprise of a Lifetime

Education, Featured

Wiley College graduates | Image by Wiley College / Twitter

The 2022 graduating class of Wiley College received a pleasant surprise during their commencement ceremony on Saturday. Wiley’s president told the graduating class that an anonymous donor had paid their student debt in full.

Over one hundred students had their student loan balances paid off, allowing them to start their post-college careers free of debt.


“We are constantly communicating with donors to assist students in these ways so that they can begin their after-college experience with less debt,” Herman J. Felton Jr., Wiley’s president and CEO stated in a press release.

“You are debt-free. You do not owe the college a penny,” Felton announced at commencement. “If you have a balance, you had a balance — you no longer have a balance.”

The total class debt was about $300,000.

Wiley College is located in Marshall, Texas, and is a historically black college known for its role in the 2007 movie, The Great Debaters. Based on the 1935 Wiley College debate team, the movie starred Denzel Washington in the role of Wiley college professor Melvin B. Tolson, who encouraged students to join the college’s first debate team. In the film, Wiley challenges the top-ranked debate team at Harvard University.

The story takes its inspiration from a real debate between Wiley College and the University of Southern California, when the 1935 Wiley debate team won over USC against the backdrop of segregation.      

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