BILLINGS - Montana State University Billings established a debt elimination program for unpaid account balances for students who were enrolled during the national coronavirus pandemic emergency that was declared on March 13, 2020, and ran through May 2021.
A total of $800,000 has been wiped from student accounts, as stated in a press release.
Funding comes from the one-time Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) institutional award from the U.S. Department of Education.
“Many of our students experienced tremendous financial hardships last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and we hope that forgiving current unpaid student account balances will help alleviate some of their financial burdens and allow many to complete their degree,” Vice Chancellor for Student Access and Success Kim Hayworth said.
Beginning in June, account balance debt elimination notifications were sent to eligible students. Recipients say the financial relief alleviates stress for them and their families, as many are still struggling to make financial ends meet and continue their education.
MSUB says, starting this fall, they will also automatically award eligible students HEERF funds, rather than students having to apply for the funds directly. These awards are designed to assist students who have been the most financially impacted by COVID-19.
Students can review the award matrix and determine what their fall award will be based on their credit load and estimated family contribution (EFC) from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Students will be notified of their awards after the start of the fall semester, with disbursements beginning early October. Those with significant financial circumstances may also apply for additional aid.
In more good news, MSUB announced their undergraduate tuition rates for the 2021-22 academic year will remain the same.
“We are thrilled to support our students and help ease some of their financial burdens by forgiving unpaid account balances, automatically awarding HEERF dollars and not increasing our undergraduate tuition rates,” Chancellor Stefani Hicswa said. “We are doing everything we can to make life easier for our students, and hope that by doing these things, they will be able to stay on track to complete their degree.”
Applications are still open for this fall semester, which starts Sept. 8. Individuals interested in enrolling for online or in-person classes can apply here.