Philander Smith Surprises Graduates by Eliminating Their Balances

The effort was supported by donations from the Jack and Jill Foundation and alumni.

Roderick L. Smothers, Sr., president of Philander Smith College
Roderick L. Smothers, Sr., president of Philander Smith College, speaks at graduation ceremony May 8, 2021.

Philander Smith College is being praised by grateful students and parents for closing out approximately $80,000 of outstanding balances held by graduates in both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021. Roderick Smothers, Sr., president of Philander Smith College, made the surprise announcement during commencement ceremonies May 8. 

“We are immensely excited to be able to do this for our new graduates. And, although this gesture may not entirely eliminate their student debt load, it will certainly allow them to receive their diplomas immediately,” Smothers said. “Armed with their credentials, they will be free to pursue a graduate education or take those first steps towards their chosen careers with one less burden to bear.” 

Along with donations made by the college’s alumni and other private gifts, Philander Smith College received a $54,000 grant from the Jack and Jill Foundation’s College GAP Fund in this effort.

“The recipients of the JJ College GAP Fund are so deserving of this assistance. They are bright, talented students on the brink of graduation with a small unmet financial need,”  said Pier Blake, executive director of the Jack and Jill Foundation. “We don’t just offer this financial relief as an incentive. Rather, it’s more of a necessity, providing students with the financial support necessary to cross the finish line.”

In a ceremony that was delayed by a year due to COVID-19, Philander Smith College conferred degrees on 120 students in the Class of 2020, while approximately 175 degrees were conferred upon the Class of 2021.