Governor Andrew Cuomo is eliminating up to $125 million in unpaid student debt for 50,000 CUNY students who experienced financial hardship during the pandemic under a new initiative called the CUNY Comeback Program.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardships in the lives of so many New Yorkers, and our students were among those most impacted,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “This landmark new program eliminates millions of dollars in unpaid debt, providing much-needed relief to tens of thousands of CUNY students as they work to get back on their feet after the pandemic and plan for their futures.”
CUNY's forgiving debt for 50,000+ of our students and grads!
On this historic day, we join @NYGovCuomo in announcing this relief from the stresses of owing money, helping to ensure a Comeback for our students, our University and our City 💙#CUNYComebackhttps://t.co/gNfh2hnJZi pic.twitter.com/pvkHEKkFrj
— Félix V. Matos Rodríguez (@ChancellorCUNY) July 28, 2021
In addition, students who did not accrue unpaid tuition and fee balances during the pandemic but still suffered financial hardship due to COVID will get financial relief in the form of enhanced Student Emergency Grants. The program is funded through federal stimulus assistance allocated to CUNY.
“CUNY students showed their great resilience in the face of the immeasurable hardships they faced over the past 16 months, from employment and income loss to food and housing insecurity, amid an unprecedented health crisis that brought sickness and tragedy to thousands of New York families,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez in a statement. “This compassionate action will allow CUNY students and recent graduates to move ahead in pursuit of their educational and career objectives without the specter of unpaid tuition and fees. This landmark measure will also enhance CUNY’s important contributions to New York’s economic recovery.”
The CUNY Board of Trustees approved to use the $125 million in federal stimulus funds for student support, retentions and the governor’s student debt relief initiative. CUNY leadership estimates that at least 50,000 students will receive some form of pandemic debt relief. According to a release from the governor’s office, as of August of last year 69.2 % of CUNY students attend a two-year or four-year college for free and the average amount of debt upon graduation being about $2,000.
In order to qualify for the debt-relief program, students must have been enrolled at a CUNY school from March 13 of last year, when the coronavirus was declared a national emergency, throughout the 2021 spring semester and accrued tuition and fee balances throughout that time.
Students who did accrue tuition and fee balances in the spring 2020, summer 2020, fall 2021 and spring 2021 terms will have those balances erased.