Channing Hill enters senior year debt-free at Howard University
By Valerie Fields Hill
Texas Metro News Editor
Music producer Pharrell Williams, who wrote the blockbuster cult classic song “Happy” for 2013’s animated film Despicable Me 2, made a few college students – including a North Texas coed – gleeful Friday by promising to pay off their student loan debts.
The five HBCU students and recent graduates, including Channing Hill of Bedford, received the news that their loans would be paid off while they participated in a panel discussion Friday in Washington, D.C. The panel explored the personal impact of college loan debt.
“I think my mama started praise dancing when I called her,” Hill wrote on her Instagram feed, after receiving the news. “Today, I enter my senior year with a clean slate.”
Friday’s discussion was hosted by the NAACP. It was among a host of activities planned as part of Williams’ three-day, “Something in the Water” festival being held in the nation’s capital over the Juneteenth holiday weekend.
Williams, who frequently performs under only his first name, created the festival in 2019 as a means of bringing together people from many walks of life, interests and political persuasions. He is among the festival’s star-studded lineup of singers and musicians.
Meanwhile, NAACP National President Derrick Johnson, celebrated the students’ reactions by posting images of them, including Hill, appearing shocked and tearful at the news.
Johnson also reiterated his call for President Joe Biden’s administration to cancel loan debts for low-wage earning graduates and other students, particularly those attending the nation’s 107 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“@Pharrell is canceling all their student loan debt,” Johnson tweeted on his official NAACP account Friday. “@POTUS, it’s your time now to do the same for all Americans plagued by student debt.”
According to research by the NAACP, Black Americans by comparison to all others have student loan debt that is higher than their median annual income. A cancellation of $10,000 would not place their student debt lower than their annual income, the NAACP contends.
Further, the civil rights organization maintains, the average white family has an average of 10 times the amount of wealth as the average Black family. Additionally, White college graduates have seven times more wealth than Black college graduates, according to NAACP researchers.
Hill, a junior Strategic Legal and Management Communications major at Howard University, had told attendees she worried that the $18,000 in student loans she had accumulated not only affected her, but also her family and sibling.
Hill said her debt likely would affect her parents’ ability to borrow money to finance her younger sister’s undergraduate studies, which begin next year.
Other panelists – each of them are NAACP student leaders from historically Black Florida A&M University – Devan Vilfrard, Southern University in Baton Rouge – Robyn Hughes, Norfolk State University – Jamie Turner and North Carolina A&T State University – Damarius Davis – shared similar concerns over mounting college debt.
Upon learning the news, Hill, who is president of Howard University’s NAACP student chapter and a graduate of Euless’s Trinity High School, said she was speechless. She, herself, had advocated for the Biden administration to cancel students’ federal student loan debts.
“My God. I’m still in disbelief,” Hill wrote on her Instagram feed. “Get active in this fight to cancel ALL student loans. Call Biden. Tell him it’s time.”