University plans to use COVID funds to wipe student debts, including illegals

City University of New York (CUNY) announced plans to wipe out student debt for more than 50,000 students to the tune of up to $125 million using coronavirus relief funds.

Eligible students for the massive taxpayer-funded program include any student who was enrolled during the pandemic from March 2020 to Spring 2021 including recent graduates and students who dropped out during that time. International students, asylum seekers, refugees, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, other DREAMers, and similar undocumented students will also be eligible.

The “CUNY Comeback Program” was approved by the university’s Board of Trustees on July 6 and is funded through pandemic relief money earmarked for higher education that was approved by Congress in March.

“I view this initiative as more than just good policy; it also affirms the recognition that challenges still exist for many New Yorkers, and it helps to fulfill the moral imperative that is implicit in CUNY’s historic mandate to provide access to a quality education for all New Yorkers, regardless of background or means,” CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez wrote in an open letter to the CUNY community this week.

Enrollment plummeted 5.1% last year as the campus was shut down and classes were taught remotely, resulting in a $52 million loss in revenue.  The Spring 2020 semester alone resulted in a $32 million loss in revenue due to “a reduction in tuition and other revenue collections.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardships in the lives of so many New Yorkers, and our students were among those most impacted,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “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.”

Students who paid their tuition and fees in full are still eligible for a $200 grant that will be automatically awarded. These students may still have the ability to apply for assistance by justifying their hardship to the campus financial aid office.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged President Biden to issue an executive order to extend the student loan payment pause that is slated to end in September and has been in effect since last year due to the pandemic.


“These people live with a sword hanging over their heads, and every day that goes by, that sword draws a little closer,” Warren said this week. “This is a matter of economic justice, it is a matter of racial justice. The President of the United States can remove this sword. The President can prevent this pain. The President can cancel $50,000 in student loan debt. He can wipe out all debt for about 36 million Americans.”

Critics pounced on the idea of student loan programs that represent colossal government overreach.

***CAUTION: Language***

Ashley Hill

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