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Virginia State University to clear account balances for students enrolled during pandemic

Virginia State University in Ettrick. (Source: NBC12)
Virginia State University in Ettrick. (Source: NBC12)
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 1:49 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2021 at 11:14 PM EDT
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ETTRICK, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia State University announced it will pay off all account balances for students impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. VSU will pay off balances owed to the university for students who attended during all 2020 semesters and the spring 2021 semester, per an announcement from the university on Friday.

We all know 2020 took the world by surprise. Imagine being a college student.

“We didn’t know what it was. We didn’t know how to react to it, especially from a student standpoint. We’ve been in face-to-face classes our whole life, so for this pandemic to hit and change the whole narrative, the whole perspective of us being virtual, we didn’t know how to react. We didn’t know how to take it,” said rising senior James Ricks. He rolled with the punches to get through. “It was hard for us to get adjusted at first. It was hard to get on Zoom every day, every morning and not being able to get that one-on-one instruction that we’re used to face-to-face.”

When the university closed, forcing students to continue learning from home, many had to take on new responsibilities.

“We had to get jobs back at home now that we’re back in our households,” Ricks continued.

He learned the art of making sacrifices and persevering through a pandemic.

“Our students were already struggling just to make ends meet,” said VSU Provost and Vice-President Dr. Donald Palm.

He and his counterparts took notice of what students were dealing with. Friday, the university made a major announcement. Students who took classes during the pandemic and still owe the university for things like tuition, books, and in some cases, even room and board, won’t have to worry about paying the university back.

“Many of our students’ parents may have been laid off. One of the things we wanted to do was to remove that barrier of having to return to school because of debt that was incurred because of COVID-19 these last three semesters,” Palm added.

“Our resources can be very scarce depending on where we’re from of course…I consider this a reward and an acknowledgment…We pushed through it,” Ricks said.

Students who owe the university are typically not allowed to enroll in courses the following semester. Seniors who have graduated but owe money aren’t able to receive their diplomas until they clear that balance. Friday’s announcement wipes the slate clean.

The university said it will finance the payoffs using CARES Act funds for all balances acquired after March 13, 2020. VSU has also used these funds for air quality improvements, equipment for staff, and even stipends for students when they were forced to go home. Now, leaders are taking it a step further to make sure money isn’t standing in the way of students getting an education. The initiative does not apply to loans from outside organizations.

Non-degree, noncredit, undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, continuing education, undocumented and international and alumni students are all included in the payoffs.

A full list of frequently asked questions and answers can be found at this link.

Anyone with questions can call 804-524-5506 or email bursar@vsu.edu.

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