LSU to Forgive $7M in Student Debt Using COVID-19 Relief Funds
BATON ROUGE – Louisiana State University is forgiving more than $7 million in student debt using COVID-19 relief funds, the latest allocation in what LSU officials say has been $25 million in student relief since the pandemic began.
“In an effort to continue providing access to an LSU education, we have made the decision to clear all unpaid prior tuition and fee balances for LSU students who enrolled at any point during the COVID-19 pandemic period,” LSU Vice President for Enrollment Management Jose Aviles said.
The decision, which was announced Monday, applied to about 4,000 students. The funding comes from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, a $14 billion program created under the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act added another $36 billion to the program in March, and the U.S. Department of Education required recipient colleges and universities to make direct debt forgiveness payments to some students.
“In addition to the grants made directly to students, this guidance illustrates opportunities for institutions to use their own grants to reimburse themselves for lost revenue while supporting students during the pandemic, including discharging unpaid institutional balances so students can resume their studies and subsidizing childcare services for student parents,” the Department of Education said.
LSU’s $7 million tuition and fee forgiveness grants apply from spring 2020 to the fall semester, which began Monday.
The funding comes on the heels of $9.4 million in federal COVID-19 funding that LSU issued to students in April. That round of funding was aimed at helping students with unexpected pandemic expenses and included undergraduate and graduate school students, law school students and those studying veterinary medicine, LSU officials said.
Grant awards were posted to students’ university accounts and then distributed directly to students either by direct deposit or mailed check. The maximum award amount per student was $1,200.
Louisiana higher education schools, which include community and technical colleges, receive Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund funding based on a federal formula that weighs student enrollment numbers, Pell Grant recipients and other criteria.
Qualifying students must be enrolled in at least one credit hour, be a U.S. citizen or Title IV eligible noncitizen, be seeking a degree and have a valid 2020-2021 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, on file with their respective school.
About 12% of LSU’s 34,000 students qualify for the school’s new debt forgiveness initiative. Unlike loans, the funds will not have to be paid back.
“Students who qualify for the debt relief will receive communication from Financial Aid & Scholarships in the Office of Enrollment Management with more details. The debt forgiveness applies to students with balances owed directly to LSU,” Aviles said.
By William Patrick of the Center Square