Why Community Colleges Are Using Their COVID Relief Funds to Erase Student Debt

Community colleges across the country are leveraging federal coronavirus relief dollars to forgive student debt accrued during the pandemic, a move some administrators hope will stanch continuing enrollment declines at the two-year institutions.

The money, available through both the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the more recent American Rescue Plan Act, allows eligible colleges to wipe out student debt and provides grants directly to students in need. At El Paso Community College in Texas, for example, administrators cleared more than $3 million in debt for roughly 4,700 students over the summer using CARES Act funding, then encouraged eligible students to apply for additional financial aid via allocations from ARP.

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