PARAMUS, N.J. — One of New Jersey’s largest community colleges is using pandemic relief money to wipe out millions in student debt.
Bergen Community College — which graduates more students than any school of its kind in the state — says it will devote around $5 million in federal pandemic-related aid money to canceling the debts of around 2,000 students.
The debt relief will be applied to students who enrolled in classes and were billed for tuition during the pandemic. Eligible students will not have to request the relief.
“When I arrived at Bergen in January, I sought to lead with an ‘ethic of care,’” said President Eric M. Friedman. “That philosophy represents the driving force behind this initiative, as financial concerns often present the most significant barrier to earning a college degree – especially given the pandemic’s effect on the finances of our students. By erasing past-due tuition, students can return to Bergen to continue their path to a degree without debt hanging over their heads.”
The school says it has already distributed $10 million in direct, emergency financial aid to students. They are hoping to allay expenses that students have suffered due to the pandemic.
Additionally, BCC will sponsor an initiative that will offer $1,000 awards to five students who register at the college and become vaccinated. Similar programs have been used at schools in New York, West Virginia and Ohio. Any student who provides proof of registration and vaccine will be entered into a lottery that will take place Aug. 27.