Student loan forgiveness: Why actor Jesse Williams is helping people pay off debt

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·3-min read

Dr. Jackson Avery, a popular character on the long-running drama Grey’s Anatomy, never had to worry about paying off student loan debt. For his portrayer, actor Jesse Williams, it was a very different reality.

“I bounced around from many different school programs as a young person, completely not being able to afford access to a quality education for some time,” Williams said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above).

It’s the main reason why Williams decided to team up with Scholly CEO Christopher Gray to tackle student loan debt for millions of other Americans.

The “Pay It Off with Jesse Williams Fund” will offer $25,000 to four individuals towards their student loan debt. Students can apply for the first round by going on myscholly.com and submitting their names for consideration.

TODAY -- Pictured: Jesse Williams on Tuesday March 29, 2022 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Jesse Williams on Tuesday March 29, 2022 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

“We want to make sure that we get it in the hands of as many students, as many college graduates and students as possible,” Gray said.

Student loan debt has become one of the biggest economic issues in the U.S. According to the latest data, there is over $1.7 trillion in outstanding debt. More than 10% are 90-plus days delinquent on their payments.

'It's completely unfair'

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, then-President Donald Trump froze all student loan debt, and this was extended once President Biden took office. Payments will resume on Aug. 31, though the president has indicated a willingness to cancel at least some federal student loan debt. (Throughout his presidential campaign, he had pledged to cancel $10,000 in debt for every borrower.)

On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the Senate student debt cancellation “could be good for the economy” adding “there are some trade-offs involved that need to be analyzed.”

Part of the root of the issue, according to Williams and Gray, is the overall cost of college. The average cost for a four-year college is currently 35,331.

According to Gray, until the government takes a more active role in addressing the rising cost of higher education, making college free or providing more scholarships and grants can make a difference.

Yesica Manilla is hugged before graduation ceremonies held at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA on May 5, 2022. (Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty)
Yesica Manilla is hugged before graduation ceremonies held at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA on May 5, 2022. (Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty)

“There are a number of things to really help students, especially first-generation students and students of color who are hit the hardest with the student debt crisis,” Gray said.

A 2021 report from the American Association of University Women found that Black women graduate with an average of $37,558 in student debt, and that "more than 70% of Black students go into debt to pay for higher education, compared to 56% of white students."

“I saw many of my good friends be forced to drop out because they could not afford to stay in school,” Williams said. “And it’s completely unfair. You watch good people be stripped of an opportunity at 19 years old. They have nothing to do with their family’s income, their generational wealth, their parents’ connections, laws, and legislation. We have nothing to do with it and yet we are the ones that get kicked out of school for something that has nothing to do with us.”

Dave is an anchor for Yahoo Finance.

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