La Salle University will use federal stimulus funds to clear the outstanding balances from the spring semester for more than 100 students, the school announced Thursday.
The private Catholic university in Philadelphia will use more than $522,000 to wipe out the debt, with an average of $4,706 per student.
“There’s no denying how difficult these last two years have been,” interim president Tim O’Shaughnessy said in a statement. “It’s our hope that this measure will alleviate some of the stress our students and their families have experienced and help them along their respective paths toward academic and professional success.”
La Salle becomes the latest university in the area and part of a growing number nationally trying to assist students whose educations may have been disrupted or negatively affected by the pandemic by using federal stimulus dollars to clear some or all of their school balances.
The Community College of Philadelphia announced last week that it would use $2.75 million to pay off the outstanding balances of as many as 3,500 students, allowing them to continue their studies this fall. Delaware State University, Bloomsburg University, and Montgomery County Community College are among others that have made similar decisions. Temple University also said it was contacting students and asking if it could use some of the federal dollars to wipe out their debt.
Colleges nationally have received $76 billion in federal stimulus aid since the coronavirus began and have been required to give about half of it directly to students in need. Schools have developed various approaches to distributing the aid.
At La Salle, which has an enrollment of 4,624, any student with a tuition, fee, or room and board balance greater than $500 from the spring semester received the aid, said La Salle spokesperson Christopher Vito. That’s the level of debt that typically prevents students from registering for the next semester, he said.
“For someone who is clearly looking to continue their education, this is an important measure,” he said.
When Cas Borowitz, a rising sophomore communications major from Mechanicsburg, got the news that the university was erasing the $6,600 she owed, she said she cried.
“I don’t even need to consider dropping out now,” said Borowitz, who is working two jobs to help pay for her education. “It just relieves a lot of stress and took a lot of the unfavorable possibilities off the table.”
The aid is particularly important to students with financial need. More than 40% of La Salle students qualify for federal Pell grants targeted to students from lower-income families. And nearly all students receive some form of financial aid at La Salle, where tuition and room and board total $47,222 annually.
Overall, La Salle expects to give more than $9 million in emergency aid to students, using the federal dollars awarded since the pandemic began.