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Pima College forgives $2.7 million in student debts racked up during pandemic

Pima Community College will erase about $2.7 million in student debts by using federal emergency relief funds, the school announced Monday, clearing the way for about 4,500 students to continue studying and receive any certificates withheld because of past due balances.

The school said that this will release holds on student accounts with past-due balances that were incurred on or after March 13, 2020, which is around the time coronavirus lockdowns began.

Once the debts are cleared, PCC students covered by the decision will no longer have to make a payment or enter into a payment plan with the school to re-enroll in classes or obtain transcripts or certificates.

PCC is forgiving these debts with money from a third round of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, or HEERF III, a federal COVID relief program created by the American Rescue Plan, which was passed into law in March.

“We are pleased to offer relief to those who’ve been adversely affected by the pandemic,” PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert said in a press release Monday. “This program will allow us to remove barriers and effectively re-engage with students who may have left PCC for financial reasons but would still like to continue their educational journey.”

The school said that it will start reaching out to students individually to let them know their past due balances have been set back to zero and to talk with them about continuing their studies.

The chairman of PCC’s Governing Board, Demion Clinco, called the decision “critical and important“ to getting students stymied by the pandemic back on track.

“This action will directly help students harmed by the pandemic and support their recovery and long-range success,” he said in a press release. “We know many Pima students have been significantly impacted directly and indirectly by COVID-19, and this program is one step in supporting community recovery.”

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Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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Students of Pima Community College who collected debt during the pandemic will get a clean slate as the school announced they plan to use federal COVID relief funds to clear about $2.7 million in debt.