Smith confident in plan to allow Marshall students to graduate debt free in coming years

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall University President Brad Smith says he is confident in a plan that he hopes results in Marshall students graduating with no student debt in the next decade.

Smith made the announcement of his plan at the end of his investiture ceremony on Sept. 16 saying “In 10 years, no Marshall student will graduate with student debt.”

Brad Smith

On Tuesday’s MetroNews Talkline, Smith cited a previous campaign by Marshall to say he expects the university to reach the $300 million mark necessary to accomplish this goal.

“Over the next decade I am completely confident,” Smith said. “Especially with a program like this that speaks to the mind, the heart of donors. They are going to want to lean in and help these young men and women who know they have the opportunity to go to college yet can’t afford it. I think we’re going to find that $300 million.”

Smith noted how Marshall raised $176 million in a few years under the previous campaign – Marshall Rises.

He explained that the program is ‘skin in the game’ and will have four pieces including students filling out a FAFSA every year, asking for family contributions to match what is expected from FAFSA and a work-study program with public and private business.

Classes will be more flexible for students in the program to allow for work, the president said. He said flexibility goes along with his administration’s strategy of ‘Marshall for All. Marshall Forever.’

“We need to make sure we have more accessible, affordable and more evergreen educational opportunities. The accessibility is not only having flexibility around class times but giving the students the ability to take the classes online. Or have some classes where they are able to attend in person and/or watch a recorded version and get caught up,” Smith said.

Smith said the final piece is following the graduation of a student, the university will attempt to use scholarships and grants to offset the remaining bill for the student.

The program will be tested in the fall 2023 semester with 100 students. The Parthenon reported those students will be selected randomly, but based proportionally on what states and counties students come from.

It was noted during Smith’s Talkline appearance that Marshall has increased retention rates but has been challenged with recruiting incoming new students. Marshall’s enrollment has decreased by 22% since it peaked in 2010.

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