Several colleges in Virginia used federal pandemic funding to wipe out student bills.
MARTINSVILLE – You could almost buy two 2021 Honda Civics. This is how much the average American goes into debt to graduate from college.
In an effort to alleviate this burden, some Virginia colleges recently offered financial assistance for outstanding balances using federal coronavirus funding.
Patrick & Henry Community College in Martinsville sent out debt relief letters in May, surprising 71 scientists.
Students with a GPA of 2.0 or higher who had an outstanding claim against the school on or after March 13, 2020, suddenly had zero dollar balances. This deleted more than $ 41,000 from student accounts, said Chris Wikstrom, director of institutional research and effectiveness.
The move also helped financially struggling students continue their education.
“Government policy will not allow a student to enroll if they have an outstanding debt. We have students who are prevented from continuing their education because of relatively low debt, ”said Jack Hanbury, vice president of finance and administration. “We had federal funding from [stimulus] available to pay off outstanding debts so that these students can continue their education. “
Lawayne Perkins, a student who received debt relief, expressed her gratitude.
“My reaction was that I was very grateful,” said Perkins. “I wanted to take a class this summer, but before I could enroll, I should have paid my debt. Because of the pandemic, my job was no longer what it was. Since P & HCC has reduced the debt, I was able to take the course this summer and am now well on the way to completing my program. “
A welcome surprise
Last week, Reynolds Community College in Richmond paid off nearly $ 400,000 in debt for nearly 500 students enrolled on or after March 13, 2020.
Dr. Terricita Sass, vice president of enrollment management and student success, said the school looked at student numbers and found that 488 people had different account balances. Some cases ranged from library fees worth a few dollars to tuition fees worth hundreds of dollars.
Of these nearly 500 people, 68% were Pell Grant recipients who had no outside contributions to pay for their education.
Ironically, when the students received the message that they had a zero balance, many thought it was a joke. Several called the school with inquiries.
“A certain student received the letter [and] told their parents. Their parents didn’t believe them. So the parents called and for privacy reasons we couldn’t talk to the parents about the student bill. So the parents call back. And it’s the parents on the phone and the student on the phone. And the parents said, ‘Okay, explain this to me. Do I understand correctly?’ And they were so excited, ”said Sass. “You know, we’re not face to face, but the emotions that were in their two voices were both so exuberant, so grateful. You couldn’t believe it. It’s like they won the lottery. ”
Sass said the action contributed to the college’s mission to help students make their way.
“Clearing student balances due to the devastating effects of COVID-19 is more than a gesture,” Sass said. “Reynolds is committed to removing as many barriers as possible, and we know that the financial challenges many of our students face can upset their education and future. We hope that this act will enable the students to achieve their dreams. ”
Payment of the balance
In July, students at Virginia State University in Petersburg got quite a surprise. The school has cleared all unpaid tuition, fees, room and meal credits, and more for students enrolled during the pandemic impact period.
This means that for students who attended VSU in the spring, summer, autumn and winter semester of 2020 and in the spring of 2021, the balance for these courses is USD 0.00.
“We care about our students and their academic success, and we want to offer them the privilege of moving forward with a zero balance,” said Dr. Donald Palm, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs. “We believe that the relief from these balances will provide the much-needed relief that will allow our fellows to focus more on their academics and their degree.”
Students eligible for the offer included non-degree, non-credit, undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate, continuing education, undocumented and international students, as well as students who graduated or graduated during the pandemic have withdrawn. The payout relates to VSU credit, not loans to external companies.
Nearby Virginia Union University in Richmond gave approximately $ 6.35 million to 1,344 students as part of a debt settlement.
Hampton University students also received a surprising letter earlier this month. In the note, the school’s president, William Harvey, paid tribute to the difficulties students faced during the pandemic and called the global health crisis a “terrible experience.”
The president also pointed out the financial hardships many students faced during the pandemic. In view of these monetary burdens, Harvey announced that the HU would settle the outstanding amounts for the students enrolled in spring 2021.
“We hope these funds will help our students continue their Hampton experience and enjoy a seamless transition back to campus,” said Harvey.
Student debt settlement for spring 2021
Ahead of the fall semester, Old Dominion University joined the growing number of schools to help clean up some student debt incurred during the pandemic.
For ODU students who participated during the spring semester 2021, their study account balance for this semester is zero.
“Old Dominion is committed to helping our students achieve their academic potential,” said Donald Stansberry, vice president of student engagement and enrollment services. “At a time when many families are facing financial stress due to the pandemic, these funds from the CARES Act will help remove significant barriers to enabling students to continue their academic journeys.”
Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. You can reach them at [email protected]