Tennessee HBCU Med School Decided to Put CARES Act Money Into Students’ Pockets

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Just before students at Meharry Medical College went home for Thanksgiving, Dr. James Hildreth, the school’s president, emailed them a video message that he acknowledged seemed hard to believe. Or at least they had to give it a second listen.


HBCUAwards News - Meharry Medical College
Meharry graduate student Andreas Nelson of Chicago says being given $10,000 with no strings attached means the school trusts its students to use the money as they see fit. Nelson hopes to attend Meharry’s dental school, whose students graduate with an average of $280,000 in loan debt. (BLAKE FARMER / WPLN NEWS)

“We’ll gift each of you $10,000 in cash,” he said, looking at the camera. “You heard me right.”


They were told to expect a direct deposit the next day or pick up a check in person. Hildreth, an expert in infectious diseases who helped lead Nashville’s pandemic response, explained that this gift with no strings attached was money from the CARES Act, a major covid-19 relief law passed by Congress in 2020. He asked only that they be “good stewards” of the windfall.

After deep consideration, Meharry’s administration decided to give roughly a third of its CARES Act funding — $10 million — directly to its future doctors, dentists and public health researchers. All told, 956 students received payments.


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