Some HBCU graduates struggle to graduate debt free. And with all the possible distractions on campus, some HBCU graduates have difficulty graduating with top grades. Yet for one Howard University graduate, she beat the odds to graduate having overcome both those obstacles. Learn more in the piece from Charlene Rhinehart at Black Enterprise below.

Credit: Twitter/nadiyabee

Nadiya Blair just graduated from one of the world’s leading HBCUs debt-free, according to Defender Network.

At only 18-years-old, Blair has earned her Bachelor’s degree from Howard University. Despite the challenges associated with remote learning during the pandemic, she was able to achieve honors status, graduating Summa Cum Laude as a member of the Class of 2021.

“I definitely give credit to my creator. But also my parents are just exceptional people,” she said. “The amount of love my parents have poured into me was awesome. They weren’t helicopter parents. But they did encourage me and were extremely supportive, but they didn’t force me to do anything. They took the approach, ‘If you get a bad grade, that’s on you, and you can’t do the things you want in life with bad grades.’ That onus just made me want to do well.”

Graduating Debt-Free From Top HBCU

In 2015, Blair started high school. She took advantage of a dual credit program that expedited her educational success. According to her LinkedIn page, the young achiever was able to earn college credit from San Jacinto College while pursuing her high school diploma.

Four years later, Blair accomplished her goal of reaching two educational milestones. First, she walked across the stage as a high school graduate from the Grace Christian Academy. At the same time, she received her Associate of Arts degree with honors. At only 16-years-old, Blair had put herself on the fast track to academic success.

In 2019, Blair matriculated to Howard University as a junior. She received a tuition scholarship but that wasn’t enough to cover her college expenses. Blair turned to scholarships to fill in the funding gaps. She applied for multiple scholarships during her program — even those that were only $100.

“My number one tip is don’t snub your nose at small scholarships,” Blair told Defender Network. “I spent a lot of time going after $100, $300, $500 scholarships because they add up. Everybody wants to apply for the big 10, 50 grand. Those scholarships are fantastic, but it’s easier to get the smaller ones.”

Applying for scholarships can add up to the hours associated with a full-time job. But graduating debt-free may be worth the time. According to The Institute for College Access & Success, over 60% of the class of 2019 graduated college with student debt. Many students rely on loans, making the average loan debt for a bachelor’s degree $28,950.

Blair recommends that students devote time to filling out scholarship recommendations. Although Blair had a full list of activities on her plate, she prioritized scholarship applications to eliminate debt worries.

“Take a weekend and just dedicate time to applying for as many small scholarships as possible. You may not get them all. But if you keep persevering, it will work.”

Next Steps

Now that Blair has her degree in hand, she’s looking forward to taking a year off. First, she plans to recuperate and indulge in self-care. Before graduating from Howard, Blair had to produce a 40-page thesis. Now, she’s on a mission to regain her mental energy to prepare for the next leg of her journey. Spending time with family and learning how to play the guitar are fun priorities on the list. In addition, she hopes to enhance her Spanish fluency.

Blair also has her eyes set on receiving the Presidential Lifetime Service Award. She plans on accumulating over 2,000 hours of service within the next year. She’s partnered with many community organizations in the past, earning two president’s volunteer service awards.

After her one-year sabbatical, Blair’s goal is to pursue a master’s in public policy and focus on nonprofit management. There’s no doubt that Blair will be successful in whatever direction she decides to go in. The opportunities are already looking bright. She’s running a multi-million dollar franchise for her own vector marketing business that could impact the next steps of her journey.