Aug. 10, 2021

The Oklahoma Colleges Using COVID Relief Funds to Erase Student Debt

Hello, and happy Tuesday everyone. One of the news stories Oklahoma Watch is following very closely is how the federal COVID-19 relief funds flowing into the state are being spent. Last week, two Oklahoma colleges announced they are using some of their funding to cancel students’ account balances, giving financially struggling students a clean slate.

Tulsa Community College on Aug. 3 announced all outstanding student balances accrued between Spring 2020 and Spring 2021 were erased — bringing relief to 5,000 people.

Langston University cleared account balances for students enrolled between Spring 2020 and Summer 2021, wiping away $4.6 million in owed tuition, fees and fines.

“This will provide our students with support to fully focus on academics and further support them in their journey to graduation and a successful career,” said Dr. Kent J. Smith, Jr., Langston University President, according to the announcement.

“We are excited for what this transformational gift means for our students, former students, and recent graduates!” Smith told The Oklahoman the university’s phones had been ringing off the hook since the announcement.

Langston is the only historically black college or university in Oklahoma. Both Langston and Tulsa Community College paid off student balances regardless of whether the student was currently enrolled.

They join dozens of schools across the country that are forgiving students’ debts, which the Biden administration has encouraged colleges and universities to do. Nationwide, colleges received more than $69 billion across three major pandemic relief bills.

What other ways are colleges and universities spending their relief dollars? I’d love to hear from you. As always, email and DMs open. Have a great week.

— Jennifer Palmer

New on Oklahoma Watch

Masks are Optional. COVID Cases are Surging. And it’s Time for Back-to-School.

A surge in COVID-19 cases due to the highly contagious delta variant and lagging vaccine [Read more…]

What I’m Reading

  • Parents say lack of mask mandates in schools limits their right to a safe school environment. [The Frontier]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, started school Monday with a plan to be in-person five days a week. [Oklahoma City Free Press]
  • Texas school districts are defying the governor’s order over mask mandates, and a lawsuit was filed Sunday. [Texas Tribune]
  • Kids are struggling with lingering post-COVID symptoms. [The New York Times]

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