Everett Community College (ECC) in Washington has announced that it is canceling student loan debt for more than 3,400 students who took classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, the school will erase the student debt of those who enrolled from spring 2020 to summer 2021, totaling around $1.2 million.
According to ECC President Daria Willis, 500 to 700 students usually have outstanding balances. However, this number rose into the thousands due to the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is probably one of the few times we will see money like this come from the federal government. So why not spend it on students? That’s who we’re here to serve,” the official told The Everett Herald.
In addition to canceling student debt, ECC is providing free on-campus housing to full-time students. The college also vows to help fall enrollees who have experienced financial hardship by giving them up to $2,500 to support their academic expenses.
‘Giving Students a Fresh Start’
The government has provided colleges and universities with stimulus packages to help them cope with the financial challenges resulting from the current health crisis. Schools that received federal aid are ordered to spend half of the money on helping students.
According to Willis, ECC’s decision to cancel student debt will provide students with “a fresh start.” She also stated that the free on-campus housing and additional financial aid will assist students of color, who account for one-third of the school’s student population.
The official also revealed that the Equity and Social Justice Division at ECC has reached out to students of color to inform them about the additional aid.
“That is another reason why it just made sense to pay the debt. It just shows that [students of color] are disproportionately impacted by COVID,” Willis told the Washington-based media outlet.