HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) president announced that it will be forgiving millions of dollars of community college student debt accumulated during the pandemic.

CSCU President Terrence Cheng announced Tuesday that debt community college students took on or could not repay because of the pandemic will be forgiven.

Enrollment is down. Most students going to community college also have to work, and work was tough to find the past year and a half or raise families, which was tougher to do with all the homeschooling. By wiping their debt, he hopes to get them back in the classroom again.

“Community college students have to make choices between work and family and their education. Our ability to wipe the slate clean and make it as easy for them to return to the classrooms to continue pursuing their educations and their lives, that’s what CSCU is all about,” Cheng said.

The debt relief will impact 18,161 current and former students, and a total of approximately $17 million will be forgiven. There are no conditions attached, and students are not required to enroll in classes in any future semester.

“Community college students have been hit especially hard by COVID-19,” President Cheng said. “By eliminating the debt those students owe to institutions, we are removing a hurdle that prevents far too many people from continuing their educational journeys. Our message to students is simple: You now have a clean slate, so if an account balance was standing in your way, you can now register for classes for the fall semester.”

Paid for with the federal High Education Emergency Relief Fund money, the forgiveness affects all account balances that resulted from enrollment in summer 2019 through spring 2021.

In addition to debt forgiveness, CSCU has distributed more than $56 million in payments to students across the system through federal funding since 2020.