NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a sweeping plan to eliminate up to $125 million in unpaid debt for at least 50,000 students who attended CUNY and suffered financial hardships during the pandemic.
CUNY trustees approved using the money this month.
Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez was thrilled to announce it to students.
“Those who graduated do not have the concern about the debt and they can think about additional schooling or other plans with their lives,” he said. “That insecurity is taken away.”
Eligible students who were enrolled at the university from March 13, 2020 — the day the coronavirus was declared a national emergency — through the spring 2021 semester and accrued tuition and fee balances during that time will have those debts wiped clean.
“I myself, I lost my grandfather during the pandemic and I was also a student who experienced COVID,” said CUNY senior and chair of the student senate Juvanie Piquant.
She calls this move a lifechanger for many of her fellow students and a huge burden lifted.
“We are an institution that contributes billions of dollars back into the economy and I think it’s only right that we cancel the debt,” she added.
About 500,000 students take courses at CUNY’s 11 senior colleges and seven community colleges. It’s estimated that before the pandemic, nearly 43 million Americans had roughly $1.7 billion in student debt. Difficult enough to pay during normal times and only exacerbated by the economic collapse during COVID-19.
Chancellor Matos Rodriguez says there’s also additional direct aid from the stimulus available for students who plan to enroll in the fall and next spring.