Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the CUNY Comeback Program, a sweeping plan to eliminate up to $125 million in unpaid debt for at least 50,000 students who attended CUNY and suffered financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiative is one of the nation’s largest student debt forgiveness plans of its kind. Additionally, students who did not accrue unpaid tuition and fee balances during the period but experienced financial hardship stemming from the pandemic will receive relief in the form of enhanced Student Emergency Grants. The CUNY Comeback Program will be funded through federal stimulus assistance allocated to CUNY.
At its meeting on July 6, the CUNY Board of Trustees approved the use of $125 million in federal stimulus funds for student support and retention, including this student debt relief initiative. While final numbers are unknown until student eligibility and hardship applications have been fully assessed, the University estimates that at least 50,000 students will receive a pandemic debt-relief benefit.
The average debt balance is about $2,000. As of August 2020, more than two-thirds of undergraduate students, or 69.2 percent, attend tuition-free. Three in four undergraduate students graduated debt-free.
Eligible students who were enrolled at the University from March 13, 2020, the date the coronavirus was declared a national emergency, through the Spring 2021 semester and accrued tuition and fee balances during that time, will have those unpaid debts to the University wiped clean.
It is a one-time action to aid students who faced and overcame numerous difficulties during the public health and economic crises. In most cases, outstanding student balances will be cleared without an application process, allowing students to register for Fall semester classes and obtain their official transcripts.