Coast Community College district provides $4.5 million to forgive student debt incurred during pandemic

Coast Community College District students who incurred unpaid debt at Orange Coast, Golden West and Coastline Colleges between Spring 2020 and Spring 2022 received a boost this month when they learned that all debt had been cancelled.

District officials have allocated nearly $4.5 million in federal COVID-19 assistance, through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, to repay and cancel debt for about 15,000 students on the three campuses.

The move will allow students to re-enroll in classes by effectively removing “enrollment holds” placed on their accounts due to non-payment of funds over $25. Residence fees for California community colleges are $46 per unit and the fall semester begins August 26.

While the average amount of debt cleared by the one-time funding allowance is $284, Coastal District officials report that more than 9,000 students had outstanding debts of just $150 or less.

“During the pandemic, many students have been impacted financially and have been unable to make these payments,” Marlene Drinkwine, vice chancellor for finance and administrative services, said Friday. “This funding removes that hurdle by canceling outstanding debt, so they can re-enroll.”

The waiver also applies to students who may have obtained some form of financial aid, scholarships, bursaries or educational assistance but, for whatever reason, withdrew from classes and were therefore required to pay that money back.

Drinkwine said the $4.5 million allocation was distributed so Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa received $1.8 million while Golden West College in Huntington Beach received $1.5 million. dollars and $1.1 million went to Coastline College in Fountain Valley.

Debt cancellation was automatic and students did not have to register or take action to trigger repayment.

“A very broad announcement was made and students were notified directly,” Drinkwine said. “The goal was to be able to reconnect with these former students. It was important for us to inform them that they no longer had this debt as an obstacle to re-enrollment.

Trustees discussed details of the debt relief rollout at a meeting on Wednesday. Drinkwine said staff plan to provide an update on the program’s impact on re-enrollment at a Sept. 21 meeting.

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