Four of the state's 12 community colleges: Manchester Community College, top left; Gateway Community College, bottom left; Quinebaug Valley Community College, top right; and Tunxis Community College.

The Connecticut State Colleges and University system announced Tuesday it will forgive $17 million in community college student debt accrued during the pandemic.

The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) will provide the funds to relieve the debt of 18,161 current and former students from summer 2019 to spring 2021. In addition to HEERF providing $17 million, CSCU has used federal stimulus funding to give $56 million to students in community colleges across the state to help with costs such as tuition.

CSCU President Terrence Cheng said COVID-19 hit community college students hard, leaving the majority of them unable to repay the debt they accumulated.

“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,” President Cheng said. “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.”

Registration holds and student account balances will be covered, and President Cheng hopes there will be an abundant return of students in the fall.

There are no conditions attached to the initiative, and CSCU says students are not required to enroll in classes in future semesters.