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KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego Community College program to waive thousands of students' debt

A San Diego Mesa College building is shown, May 16, 2018.
Megan Burks
A San Diego Mesa College building is shown, May 16, 2018.

The San Diego Community College District is forgiving $3.9 million in student debt for 11,454 students at San Diego City College, Mesa College and Miramar College.

The program will forgive outstanding tuition and related enrollment fees for students who were enrolled in the spring through summer 2021 semesters. Holds for non-payment will also be removed so students can return to school and enroll in the January intersession and spring 2022 semesters. The district is using federal pandemic relief funds to cover the debt.

SDCCD Chancellor Carlos O. Turner Cortez and Associated Student Government President at Miramar College Edward Borek, spoke with KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday, and said the program will make it possible for thousands of students to continue their college education.

"We realized that one of the obstacles that prevent students from re-enrolling and making progress towards their degree or certificate is the debt that they're burdened with," Chancellor Cortez said. "Part of that debt in the instance of 11,000-plus students is debt that they owe to the college for library fines or past-due tuition fees. We thought if we have this unique opportunity to erase that debt, why not maximize that opportunity to support our students during these difficult times."

Chancellor Cortez said the amount of debt owed per student ranges anywhere from $5-$10 for a library fee, to thousands of dollars for tuition.

Borek said his fellow students' frequently share their life goals with him, and said that their future is based on what they do at local community colleges.

"This decision to forgive $3.9 million in student debt is something that is going to be so impactful for my student peers, because they will be able to go on and do the things that they want to do," Borek said. "That barrier to access $5-$10 for a library book, or several hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars for tuition, will change someone's life."

Chancellor Cortez said they are currently in the process of notifying students who may not have enrolled this past fall because of owing the college money.