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‘You Heard Right’: HBCU Meharry Medical College Gifts Students $10,000 to Ease Financial Burdens Going Into the Holiday Season

Future medical professionals attending Meharry Medical College received an early holiday surprise when they were each gifted $10,000 with no strings attached. 

James E.K. Hildreth, president of the historically Black college located in Nashville, Tennessee, announced the generous gift on Nov. 22 in a video shared with students. 

Meharry faculty and students Photo: Meharry Medical College

“In the past year-and-a-half we’ve all had to learn as it says in scripture to give thanks in all circumstances and keep thankfulness in our hearts,” began President Hildreth in what started out as simple holiday message of thanks. 

He continued, before announcing the monetary gift, “I’m thankful for you students and the future of health care, public health and research that is entrusted to you. That future looks bright.”

Meharry’s 956 students each reportedly received the gift — money provided through federal COVID-19 relief funds in the CARES Act sent to higher education institutions to go directly to students in the form of financial aid.

The act allotted a total of $14 billion to assist schools in handling the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to assist students with academic debts and clearing tuition costs. Meharry received a $20 million grant to be used in part to bolster its medical curriculum with virtual simulation and telemedicine training. The generous student gifts utilized about $9.6 million of those funds. 

The institution’s medical professionals-in-training were instrumental in administering COVID-19 tests as well as information and strategies in mitigating further spread of the novel virus throughout 2020. “You heard me right. We’re making these gifts out of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds, which Meharry received as part of the CARES Act,” he explained. 

“We felt that there was no better way to begin distributing these funds than by giving to our students who will soon give so much to our world,” said Hildreth. Students with direct deposit saw the money transferred into their bank accounts on the eve of Thanksgiving; all others were able to pick up their check on campus. 

“The $10,000 is yours to manage, but I would be remiss if I didn’t strongly advise you this Thanksgiving to be good stewards of what you’ve been given. I know Black Friday shopping is tempting, but you’d be well-advised to use the funds to pay expenses related to your education and training.” 

Students completing up to four years of matriculation in either the school of medicine or dentistry graduate with roughly more than $280,000 in debt based on a breakdown of tuition and fees for the 2021-2022 school year. Several other Black institutions of higher education, such as Atlanta’s Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, sought to help students with their academic-related financial burdens by clearing debts.


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