Meharry Medical College is ensuring the future of its Black doctors, dentists, and more is secure.

In 2021, graduate students were reportedly surprised with $10,000 cash. The grand gesture — made by Meharry’s administration — allocated $10 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the CARES Act to surprise 956 students.

“We’ll gift each of you $10,000 in cash,” Dr. James Hildreth, the school’s president, said in a video message, according to Kaiser Health News. “You heard me right.”

The financial relief proves to be timely for Meharry’s students, who played a pivotal role in providing aid at COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. The students have operated as a vehicle of change, and the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) is hopeful the generous contributions will be helpful to advance the future careers of the cohort.

“We felt that there was no better way to begin distributing these funds than by giving to our students who will soon give so much to our world,” Hildreth said, Kaiser Health News reports.

Andreas Nelson, one of the fund’s recipients, was appalled after hearing the announcement and finding $10,000 in his bank account. Nelson is currently completing a master’s program in health and science at Meharry and has plans to attend dental school. The new funds may not be helpful to pay off his student loan debt, but they will help with short-term goals such as ensuring rent is paid.

“It’s motivating,” Nelson said, according to Kaiser Health News. “Because that means they have trust in us to do with this money whatever the cause may be — whether it be student debt, investing or just personal enjoyment.”

For other students, the checks will be helpful to complete their studies and help pay their outstanding medical school debts. According to a report from the United Negro College Fund, students attending HBCUs borrow student loans at increasing rates compared to their counterparts attending non-HBCUs.  

“Many of those students are borrowing a lot of money to complete their dream, and to become relatively high earners in the future,” said Lodriguez Murray.

Murray, who leads public policy and government affairs at United Negro College Fund, continued saying: “The fact that these students are largely coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds means that the funds that Meharry turned around and gave to the students are particularly impactful.”

Meharry Continues To Create A Path For Black Students

The new investment is just a glimpse into more initiatives the HBCU is implementing to create a hopeful future for its students. Meharry recently received a portion of a $34 million commitment from a $100 million pledge from Michael Bloomberg to educate Black doctors. The commitment aims to open doors for students to seek scholarships totaling $100,000.

Meharry is also supporting students by offering test-prep service at no cost with the help of MedSchoolCoach. Through the service, students are coached by a doctor to help with their studies.