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14,000 Dallas College Students Get Fresh Start Thanks to Federal Program

Dallas College’s Fresh Start program canceled outstanding debts for around 11,000 students who attended classes during the Spring, Summer and Fall 2020 semesters, and another 3,700 students from the Spring 2021 semester. A total of more than $5.8 million was paid off under the federal government’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), designed to help students who faced financial hardship under COVID-19.

“Clearing the balances will provide much-needed relief to many of our students,” said Dr. Marisa Pierce, Dallas College associate vice chancellor of enrollment management. “We hope that by removing this barrier we allow them to continue the pursuit of their educational and employment goals. It is our responsibility, as an institution, to do everything we can to put them on a path to success.”

When students leave school burdened by debt, they find it difficult to secure housing, cover moving costs or pay for additional education. Removing that obligation will be key to helping them succeed. The U.S. Dept of Education estimates that rising educational costs have resulted in higher student debt, with the outstanding federal student loan debt surpassing $1.5 trillion last year.

Fresh Start is just Dallas College’s most recent effort to help students who struggled during the pandemic. Beginning last spring, and for the entire year that followed, the college provided laptops and hotspots to students who needed them. Students facing financial hardships—from childcare needs to housing or food insecurity—could apply for emergency funds to help them stay enrolled.

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When vaccines became available, Dallas College’s Eastfield Campus opened up as a vaccination site. Recognizing that certain parts of the community could be left behind — be it through lack of access or information — volunteers at Cedar Valley and Mountain View campuses started helping those who need assistance navigating vaccine registration. Campuses frequently partner with the North Texas Food Bank and other organizations to hold food giveaways.

“Dallas College maintains a strong commitment to support its community, especially as it recovers from the pandemic,” said Dr. Beatriz Joseph, Dallas College vice chancellor of student success. “Graduating students who carry hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt is not a recipe for individual or societal success. We need to help them, whether it’s through wrap-around services or out- right forgiveness of debt owed on their tuition.”

Students who require more information about emergency funding or would like to apply should visit the website: dallascollege.edu/caresact.

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