Grambling and Southern University of Shreveport use COVID relief money to write off student debt

Grambling State University and Southern University of Shreveport announced last week that they will use federal COVID-19 aid to pay off student debt for anyone who has attended these universities in the past year and a half.

“The pandemic has been very hard on our students and their families, and we have seen situations where students are struggling to pay tuition and some have outstanding balances,” said Grambling President Rick Gallot, during a telephone interview Monday evening.

“We are just grateful to be able to provide this relief to our students,” he said.

In a written statement, the university said it expects to write off $ 1.5 million in student debt. The program will only apply to debts weighing on students. This means, for example, that the Department of Veterans Affairs will still be required to pay the tuition fees of veterans, the statement said.

The number of students receiving Pell scholarships – a subsidy program awarded to undergraduates who display “exceptional financial need” – factored into the amount of federal aid allocated to each college or university, Gallot said.

“This is one of the few times the money has gone to students who need it most,” he said.

Grambling has joined a “growing number of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that have canceled student debt in recent months,” according to the university’s statement. Florida A&M and Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina also said they would pay off outstanding student balances with pandemic-related debt.

“I wish we could say we were the first, but we weren’t,” said Gallot.

The Chancellor of the University of Southern Shreveport, Chancellor Rodney Ellis, held a press conference on July 23 to announce his campus’s $ 3.5 million student debt reduction plan. “The University of Southern Shreveport will eliminate the balances for every student who attended SUSLA from Spring 2020 to Spring 2021,” he said at the time.

According to a campus press release, Ellis also said that students are entitled to assistance of up to $ 1,000 to help them return to campus “in the form of computers, credits to your accounts and ‘a number of other resources’.

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