NKU Announces Debt Forgiveness Initiative
Northern Kentucky University is eliminating $600,000 in student debt accrued during the pandemic as a part of initiatives to prioritize students impacted by COVID-19.
At least $3 million will go toward three "Equity Initiatives." The first one will eliminate outstanding account balances of degree-seeking students from the spring 2020 to the spring 2021 semester. In a statement, NKU President Ashish Vaidya said roughly 320 students will have their balances wiped out. Those vary anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
"Eighty-five percent of this group are undergraduates and about 14% or 15% are graduate students," Vaidya said. "More than 50% are Pell eligible students so we know that they are low-income students and that one of the ways in which we really could help them start with a clean slate would be this way."
NKU will also dedicate more than $250,000 to support students' mental health and well-being. The university will provide extra training to help faculty, staff and students form peer support groups. Vaidya said when comparing data to universities nationwide, students tend to contemplate suicide more than average at NKU.
"Quite often, the students don't just want access to a counselor, although that's important, but they also want to be able to talk to others within their own peer group because that itself is a source of support that doesn't happen," Vaidya said.
In a statement, Vice President of Student Affairs Eddie Howard said last year took a toll on the entire university.
"The number of students in need of help continues to expand," Howard said. "This is an important commitment in connecting students with the support and resources they need while attaining their educational goals.”
Undergraduate students will also be provided with $250 vouchers to purchase textbooks and other educational supplies for the upcoming fall semester. Vaidya said these initiatives won't just have an impact on the campus, but the entire region.
"What I hear from our folks is we need more talented individuals because there's a workforce gap that needs to be filled in," Vaidya said. "When you get a high-value degree, a credential from NKU, you're going to be ready to hit the ground running at whichever job you take up in this region. It's a win-win."
Funding for the initiatives comes from the American Rescue Plan. NKU received roughly $23 million, half of which had to go toward student emergency aid. The other half went towards institutional expenses.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to speak with a certified listener at 1-800-273-8255.