/  06.18.2022

Pharrell Williams surprised five HBCU students and recent graduates this Friday (June 17) by paying off their student debt.

The singer, songwriter, rapper, producer and entrepreneur announced the good news during an NAACP panel on the student debt crisis among Black students, as part of Williams’ Something in the Water Festival at the St. Regis hotel in Washington, D.C.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson tweeted photos of the moment the five NAACP student leaders found out they were going to be debt free. Johnson also used the moment to call on President Joe Biden to relieve all student debt. “@POTUS, it’s your turn now to do the same for all Americans plagued by student debt,” Johnson tweeted.

“Pharrell forever changed their lives. Student debt continues to disproportionately plague the Black community and crush opportunities for so many Black people,” Wisdom Cole, the NAACP’s national director of youth and college, who organized panel said in a press release. He added, “It is time to reduce the racial wealth gap, it is time for President Biden to fulfill his promise.”


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During Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign promise, he promised to cancel student if he was elected. “I am considering dealing with some debt reduction. I am not considering $50,000 debt reduction. But I’m in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not there will be additional debt forgiveness,” Biden also said in April.

According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 43 million Americans collectively have $1.6 trillion in federal student loan obligations. 

Williams’ surprise forgiveness comes a day after he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as part of songwriting duo the Neptunes, alongside his collaborator Chad Hugo.

Below are the names of the NAACP leaders had their student debt canceled:

  • Robyn Hughes, Southern University (Junior)
  • Damarius Davis, North Carolina AT (Alumni)
  • Jamie Turner, Norfolk State University (Alumni)
  • Channing Hill, Howard University (Senior)
  • Devan Vilfrard, Florida A&M University (Senior)


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