‘Did you hear me?’ College in Rock Hill surprises students with free tuition

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Students -- and most definitely their parents -- are rejoicing after an announcement from Clinton College in Rock Hill.

The 120-year-old college, which is a historically Black college and university, is saving students’ families a great deal of money.

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Clinton College President Lester McCorn made the announcement in a statement posted on Facebook.

“Clinton College is going to offer you free tuition. Did you hear me?” the post read.

Clinton College sophomore Patrice Berrios, of California, was taking online classes. She spent half of her freshman year in Rock Hill and when the pandemic worsened, moved back home to San Diego County to continue learning online.

Berrios was grateful to hear the news from her school.

Clinton, a private, Christian school, costs about $20,000 a year to attend, which includes everything.

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Berrios’ father, Jervon McIlwain, called the school’s decision a “great blessing.”

“It saved me about $5,000 per semester,” he said.

Enrollment at Clinton College was well over 200 students before the pandemic. However, some students never returned after March 2020.

McCorn said the decision to eliminate tuition is also a recruiting tool to help bring students back and to draw others in.

“Some of it was financial,” McCorn said. “People lost jobs during that time. And some of it was psychological, emotional, due to concerns about COVID.”

HBCUs received millions of dollars in federal CARE Act funding this year. Nearly $9 million of that money was designated for Clinton.

“We felt like it’s long overdue, because we’re serving the students who are the most deserving, but they’re very needy,” McCorn said.

The money does come with conditions.

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It’s strictly regulated and must go to the specific needs of students during the pandemic, such as technology. That’s why the college is not only giving students free tuition but also a laptop for the 2021-2022 school year.

The college cannot use the money for expansion or building improvements.

College officials are hopeful that another round of funding could allow them to address other needs on campus.

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