grant program

College students get a fresh start

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Community colleges erase students’ debt

Dallas College’s Fresh Start program canceled outstanding debts for around 11,000 students who attended classes during the spring, summer and fall 2020 semesters, and another 3,700 students from the spring 2021 semester. A total of more than $5.8 million was paid off under the federal government’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), designed to help students who faced financial hardship under Covid-19.

“Clearing the balances will provide much-needed relief to many of our students,” Associate Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management Marisa Pierce said. “We hope that by removing this barrier we allow them to continue the pursuit of their educational and employment goals. It is our responsibility, as an institution, to do everything we can to put them on a path to success.”

Fresh Start is just one of Dallas College’s efforts to help students who struggled during the pandemic. Beginning last spring, and for the entire year that followed, the college provided laptops and hotspots to students who needed them. Students facing financial hardships — from childcare needs to housing or food insecurity — could apply for emergency funds to help them stay enrolled.

Clean slates in California

At Contra Costa College (CCC) in California, the May 2021 graduating class received a nice graduation present: their outstanding fees were wiped clear.

The Finish Line Fund, run through the college’s foundation, ensured that no student graduating this spring was denied a diploma due to money owed to the school. The fund covers an average debt of $214 per student.

“Imagine the sigh of relief these students are taking right now. The Finish Line Fund is another example of how the Foundation is stepping up for our students during this difficult pandemic,” CCC Interim President Damon A. Bell said. “By erasing this debt for over 60 students, the Foundation is empowering students to move forward, whether it’s onto their continued educational journeys or meaningful careers.”

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.