It goes without saying, getting a college degree in the US is a costly pursuit, and for youth from low-income families the prospect of student debt after graduation is incredibly disconcerting. Thankfully, a nonprofit has made it its mission to ease the financial burden of debt for students and make it easier for them to get higher education.
Called Students Rising Above (SRA), the nonprofit has recently managed to raise $8 million from anonymous donors to pay off college loans for up to 400 students who overcame personal hardships — from homelessness and extreme poverty — to become first-generation college students.
The donors are longtime supporters of the Bay Area nonprofit and the money is intended to eliminate student debt for the graduates of the scholarship program. These donors are also passionate about tackling the issue of student debt.
Every student who SRA serves in the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties comes from low-to-moderate income levels and more than 60 percent live below the federal poverty line. The organization also leverages a network of over 250 partner companies to provide students with summer internships, which results in nearly 80 percent of graduates landing jobs within a year.
Overall, the majority of SRA students graduate with an average of $7,000 in debt, a figure that is much lower than the national average of nearly $40,000.
For SRA CEO Elizabeth Devaney, the award to the alumni comes at an important time, as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic. She said SRA students, who are inured to characteristics like “grit and determination and resilience,” can now “step up and lead.”