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USM forgives $2M worth of student debt for more than 750 students

The University of Southern Maine campus is seen in January 2019.
Troy R. Bennett
Bangor Daily News
The University of Southern Maine campus is seen in January 2019.

More than 750 students at the University of Southern Maine have had $2 million worth of outstanding college debts forgiven.

The college said that it's using federal pandemic relief funds to forgive the outstanding balances of students who accrued debt from the spring of 2020 through last summer. Students who acquired debt last fall also received more than $2,000 in debt forgiveness.

USM President Glenn Cummings said that COVID-19 severely affected students' health and finances. Many lost hours at work or struggled with the mental health effects of isolation.

"And then finally, we know many of them were literally taking care of children, who weren't able to go to school in the K-12 schools, while they're trying to be parents, while they're trying to complete their education for some time. Those are big challenges for people," Cummings said. "And if we can make their life a little bit better, we certainly want to."

Cummings said many of those students were forced to cut back on classes or drop out. He hopes that by forgiving their debts, those former students may be able to return to the campus.

"We wanted to get them to remember that the university cares about them, that we're here for them, and we want them come back. And one way to do that is to say, we'll forgive your debt," Cummings said.

Other Maine colleges, including the University of Maine at Augusta, have used pandemic relief funds for debt forgiveness.

A University of Maine System spokesperson says the system's campuses have passed on more than $45 million in federal relief funds since the start of the pandemic.