FUMC of Austin eliminates debt for Huston-Tillotson students

Huston-Tillotson University has announced that a gift from the First United Methodist Church of Austin has eliminated student debt for many of its students.

FUMC gave more than $450,000 to the university, clearing balances and eliminating debt for many of its 2020 and 2021 graduates.

"The message I got was, ‘congratulations. you just received the grant’," said Tyra Smith, senior at Huston-Tillotson University.

Smith says the last thing she expected was to get an email from her university saying she just received a grant that would wipe her student debt clean.

"That grant helped so much. If it wasn't for HT giving that grant, I probably wouldn't be in school right now," she said.

Smith was not the only student to receive this surprise grant. "That pushes me to go all the way to the top just like they want to see us. You want to see me move to the top, you helped me, so up we go," said Smith.

FUMC of Austin Senior Pastor Taylor Fuerst says when deciding who to give the money to, the university was an obvious choice.

"During this season of COVID-19, students at Huston-Tillotson have borne the brunt of the effects of the pandemic in a really big way and we didn't want to see those pandemic troubles slow up somebody's education or cause them to have to step away from their education and possibly not get to finish that," said Fuerst.

The university is set to celebrate the Classes of 2020 and 2021 at its first in-person commencement ceremony since 2019.

The Commencement Convocation will take place Saturday, August 7 at 9 a.m. on the Athletic Field, with engineer, physician, advocate, and astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison as the speaker. The ceremony will also be streamed live on the University’s YouTube page.  

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