Calling it the “right thing to do” while instilling “an ethic of care,” two community college presidents in New Jersey have announced that their institutions have forgiven a combined $10 million in financial balances incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They are among scores of two-year institutions taking advantage of large pools of Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) from the U.S. Department of Education to directly impact populations that have been hardest hit. In fact, more than 7,000 students at Bergen Community College and Hudson County Community College have been or will be positively impacted by the decisions. The hope is that students not only will be eased of those burdens but also will reconsider postsecondary options if they intended to drop out or stop out.
“Financial concerns often present the most significant barrier to earning a college degree—especially given the pandemic’s effect on the finances of our students,”said Bergen Community College President Eric Friedman. “By erasing past-due tuition, students can return to Bergen to continue their path to a degree without debt hanging over their heads.”
Hudson County Community College President Chris Reber noted the overwhelming repercussions of the disbursements. “COVID-19 has impacted our students and our community physically, emotionally and economically, and eradicating all students’ outstanding financial balances was simply the right thing to do,” he said in a statement.
Thanks to three rounds of sweeping initiatives under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan, the funds have assisted institutions and students in a variety of ways, from tuition assistance to housing help and medical or health care to technology needs. For the Community College of Philadelphia, the givebacks will be essential to keep students on track during a year when it saw a more than 20% decline in enrollment. Many full-time Pell-eligible students could receive $2,000 in relief.
Here are just a few of the community colleges across the U.S. that recently revealed their relief plans, including:
- Wallace State Community College in Alabama, which eliminated $585,000 in debt for 644 students.
- The Connecticut State Colleges and University system, which forgave $17 million from more than 18,000 students. The system also noted that it gave $56 million in stimulus funds directly to students.
- Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin wiped out $4 million in balances for more than 4,000 students.
- Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) has slashed $5.75 million owed by some 7,000 students. Like many other institutions, it is also providing direct help for students experiencing hardships thanks to HEERF III grants.