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UT Austin forgives nearly $5M in student debt

The debt of 8,144 students will be discharged, averaging about $610 per student.

AUSTIN, Texas — Federal COVID-19 relief funds will allow the University of Texas at Austin to relieve nearly $5 million in student debt.

According to KVUE’s media partners at The Austin American-Statesman, funding for the debt relief comes from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), with money from the American Rescue Plan passed in March. The fund was established in March 2020 in response to financial concerns at colleges and universities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The debt of 8,144 students will be discharged, averaging about $610 per student.

“Discharge of the past due debts means all financial bars have been cleared,” Kathleen Harrison, assistant director of communications for the office of executive vice president and provost, told the Statesman. “By eliminating financial bars generated from prior balances, enrollment disruption is reduced as students work to complete their degrees.”

Eligible students were notified on Wednesday their outstanding balances and loans would be discharged for the fall 2021 semester, according to the Statesman.

“UT Austin is using part of its HEERF institutional grant to do this, so that we can help students overcome the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and assist them in continuing their education or finding employment,” Diane Todd Sprague, executive director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, and Brian Dixon, associate vice provost of student aid and affordability, wrote in an email to students.

More than $2.3 million discharged for 5,353 UT undergraduates in December is on top of more than $2.6 million for 2,247 undergraduates and 544 graduate students discharged earlier for balances before the fall 2021 semester, the Statesman reported.

Eligible students had to be enrolled since March 13, 2020. They will still owe federal and private loans. Federal loan payments are expected to restart on Feb. 1, 2022, after a nearly two-year pause due to the pandemic.

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