Emergency relief funds to be used to clear student debt incurred during pandemic
Berkshire Community College (BCC) announces its plans to use $335,000 in federal Higher
Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) to erase outstanding balances accrued by
students enrolled in credit degree or certificate programs from March 13, 2020 through
May 31, 2021. HEERF funds were earmarked as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and
Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Students affected by the program have been informed via letter, which states, “We care about you, and we are committed to doing everything we can to help you continue to meet your educational goals at BCC. We appreciate the challenges of being a college student during the pandemic, and we are here to help you moving forward.”
Debt forgiveness not only allows students to reapply for admission to BCC, but it also stops attempts from collection agencies and Intercept, a system used by the Commonwealth to attach student debt to tax returns, lottery winnings, etc.
Even small amounts of debt can derail a student’s ability to progress through their college career, which will negatively impact their ability to find high-wage employment later in life. Getting students to graduation is something we approach holistically, and debt forgiveness aligns with our commitment to equitable student success.”
While the current debt forgiveness program is specific to the pandemic, Klepetar explained that keeping education affordable has long been a priority at BCC. “Our strategy has been to provide long-term financial wellness coaching, offer credit courses in financial literacy, and create opportunities for paid internships,” he said, noting that a recent gift from Berkshire Bank will help supplement these efforts. To further help students with short-term and long-term financial strategies, BCC has also bolstered its financial coaching team and created cross-divisional alignments through its One Stop Student Success project.