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For millions of American students, scholarships are crucial to making college affordable and avoiding the sometimes-overwhelming burden of student loan debt. Anthony Anderson, star of the TV show “Black-ish” remembers how difficult it was to pay for college, even 20 years ago.

“My parents couldn’t afford sending me to school, so I understand firsthand,” Anderson told the Associated Press. He’s a graduate of Howard University, and he received a partial scholarship, the AP reports. Now, he and other stars are trying to help the next generation of college-bound students, through the United Negro College Fund.

At UNCF’s 36th annual “An Evening of Stars” on April 26, Anderson was among a seven celebrities who gave 20 students more than $500,000 in college scholarships. “An Evening of Stars” is an entertainment event focused on supporting higher education and highlighting the importance of getting into and completing college.

Eighteen of this year’s scholarships were funded by Anderson, Usher, Toni Braxton, Pharrell Williams, Kevin Hart, Big Sean and Chris Paul — the other two came from UNCF. Selection criteria included students’ grades and need for financial aid.

During the show, Anderson awarded four students $25,000 scholarships toward their education costs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. R&B singers Ronnie DeVoe and Bell Biv DeVoe joined Anderson to help a HBCU graduate pay off $11,000 of student loan debt, the AP reports.

Black college graduates are more likely to graduate with debt than other graduates, according to a 2014 data from the Gallup-Purdue Index. Of students who graduated between 2000 and 2014, 50% of black graduates had more than $25,000 in student loan debt, while only 34% of white graduates had the same burden. More than three-fourths (78%) of black students graduated with student debt in those 15 years, as opposed to 61% of white graduates. Additionally, Gallup data correlates high student loan debt with lower well-being, and for decades, black college graduates have been less likely to thrive financially than their white peers, Gallup finds.

Repaying student loan debt can soak up a person’s financial resources for years, even if they’re paid off on schedule. For borrowers who can’t afford their loan payments, the financial impact is much greater, including paying more over the life of the loan or suffering credit damage by missing payments. When facing student loan payments, borrowers need to be familiar with their repayment options and the impact they will have on their credit standing. It’s a good idea to closely monitor your credit scores (you can do that for free on Credit.com) when repaying any debt, including student loans.

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