East Central Uses COVID-19 Federal Dollars to Write Off Student Debt | Local News

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East Central College said on Tuesday it was using higher education emergency aid funds to eliminate debt for students who had outstanding balances from semesters affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almost $ 160,000 in funding is used to clear the balances of 232 students who were banned from enrolling in courses due to their outstanding balances. This includes the sales from the spring semester 2020 until the summer semester 2021.

On average, these students each owe just under $ 1,000, but DeAnna Cassat, chief financial officer and vice president of finance and administration at ECC, said balances ranged from thousands of dollars to $ 50. . Cassat said further steps could be taken for students enrolled in the fall semester 2021.

The funds for HEERF were approved by Congress on March 27 as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which allocated $ 2.2 trillion to combat the economic hardships caused by the pandemic. ECC received over $ 6 million in total from the law and used it to update its HVAC system, install contactless entry systems at all exterior doors on campus, and subsidize the costs of cleaning supplies. , among others.

“The US Department of Education views the use of HEERF funds as a tool to reduce barriers for students,” ECC president Dr. Jon Bauer said in a statement. “We hope that students will take this opportunity to continue their studies with us and complete their certificate or diploma. “

Cassat said it was also a win-win solution for the college’s finance department, as these unpaid balances can go off the books. She said that for students, it allows them to re-enroll in courses at ECC or get their transcripts to transfer elsewhere. Registration for the spring semester begins Monday, and Cassat said the college expects the majority of students whose balances have been cleared to re-register with the ECC.

Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis made a similar announcement this week, claiming it was eliminating about $ 330,000 in student debt.

Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith, interim president of Harris-Stowe, said the student debt burden caused by the pandemic has resulted in low enrollment at the historically black college this fall.

“A lot of our students were saying they couldn’t work – because of COVID-19, they lost their jobs,” Smith said. “As a result, they couldn’t make payments on their balances from the previous semester or semesters that were affected by COVID-19. “

Lincoln University in Jefferson City said earlier this year it was forgiving more than $ 1.5 million in student debt, paving the way for more than 900 students to re-enroll in the university.

Cassat said every community college she knew would somehow eliminate student debt.

ECC students whose debt has been cleared will be contacted directly by the college alerting them to the possibility of enrolling in courses for the next spring or summer semester or fall semester 2022. Interested students should contact their academic advisor or call Student Services at 636-584-6588.


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