Virginia State University to clear student account balances using CARES Act funds

All VSU students enrolled during the COVID-19 pandemic will have balances forgiven

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HBCU Virginia State University (VSU) announced Friday it will clear unpaid balances for students enrolled during the pandemic using CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act dollars.

The payoff will apply to all students who took classes anytime from March 13, 2020 through the spring semester of 2021.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – AUGUST 19: Students return to the University of Virginia for the fall semester on August 19, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. One week ago the town of Charlottesville was placed in the national spotlight when white supremacists descended upon the town to stage a rally protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee when violence broke out resulting in the death of one counter protester and two members of the Virginia State Police. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Only VSU balances will be paid off, not outside loans, and balances will be cleared after federal, state and private awards are applied.

“We care about our students and their academic success and want to provide them the privilege of moving forward with a zero balance,” said provost and senior vice president of academic and student affairs Donald Palm in a press release. “We believe that relieving them from these balances will provide much-needed relief that will allow our scholars to focus more intently on their academics and degree completion.”

“Many of our students’ parents may have been laid off. One of the things we wanted to do was to remove that barrier of having to return to school because of debt that was incurred because of COVID-19 these last three semesters,” Palm told NBC 12.

VSU rising senior James Ricks told NBC 12 of the difficulties he faced during the altered school year.

“We didn’t know how to react to it, especially from a student standpoint. We’ve been in face-to-face classes our whole life, so for this pandemic to hit and change the whole narrative, the whole perspective of us being virtual, we didn’t know how to react,” Ricks said, adding that he and many other students had to find new jobs when they left school to go home.

“Our resources can be very scarce depending on where we’re from of course…I consider this a reward and an acknowledgment…We pushed through it,” Ricks said about the payoff.

The CARES Act was passed in March 2020 and designated $2 trillion in stimulus funds for economic recovery from COVID-19 impacts. $31 billion of that money was allotted for schools.

VSU has also used CARES funds to improve the school’s air quality, buy staff equipment, and even provide some students with stipends when school closed back in March.

Among other universities forgiving student balances through the CARES Act is Virginia Union University (VUU), another HBCU about a 30-minute drive away from VSU.

On June 8, VUU announced it would dedicate over $6.3 million toward waiving debt for more than 1,300 students, awarding $1.2 million to the class of 2021, $4.3 million to other undergraduate classes and $778,543 to graduate students.

“VUU is committed to helping students ease the worry of financial debt due to education loans,” said President and CEO Hakim Lucas in a press release. “These funds helped to reduce the cost of their education, which results in fewer federal and consumer loan applications and less debt.”

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