A Clean slate: CSCU forgives student debt

“Community college students have been hit especially hard by COVID-19,” CSCU President Terrence Cheng said. “By eliminating the debt those students owe to institutions, we are removing a hurdle that prevents far too many people from continuing their educational journeys.”

The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system gives a fresh start to 18,161 community college students who accumulated debt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Maria Lizarazo, a sophomore student at Norwalk Community College, explains how this relief has benefited her. “It did help me a lot to pay outstanding fees for school,” she said. “I wasn’t going to be able to register because I couldn’t pay and my parents couldn’t give me money. I was unable to work because of Covid-19.”

CSCU student debt relief came from the federal Higher education Emergency relief fund (HEERF). This fund is a federal grant program that helps students who face financial hardship during the pandemic providing forgiveness for students unable to repay community college debt.

The forgiveness affects outstanding balances accrued during summer 2019 through Spring 2021. As a result, students will have a clean slate to start classes this fall. In addition, registration holds related to owed balances will be removed.

During the pandemic, many students have had to stop attending school to work, care for their sick relatives, or because they couldn’t afford tuition. According to a survey by OneClass, many college students say they can no longer afford their education.

CSCU’s provost Dr. Jane Gates, stated, “The economic aftermath of COVID-19 disproportionately harmed community college students,” “They lost jobs, suffered food insecurity, and lacked access to vital services – to say nothing of the devastating harm caused to those afflicted with the virus. It is no wonder that so many students saw the debt they owed to our colleges pile up.”

According to numbers, forgiveness debt would benefit Latino students attending community colleges. However, Latinos are more likely to fall behind on repaying school debt, and in the current pandemic situation, there is the report of growing academic stress and anxiety. Per Federal Reserve Data, even before the pandemic, about 23% of Hispanic college grads who had taken out loans for tuition and school expenses were behind on their payments, in contrast with 6% of white student borrowers.

As announced on the CSCU website, the debt relief will cancel a total of $17 million in student debt. There are no conditions attached, and students are not required to enroll in classes in any future semesters.

Since 2020 CSCU has used stimulus funds to distribute more than $56 million in direct payments to students. Additional announcements on student financial support will come in the coming weeks.

For more information about CSCU debt forgiveness, contact Leigh Appleby, Director of communications, at 860-723-0617 or email at applebyl@ct.edu.

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