BILLINGS - Montana State University Billings students who were enrolled during the time the COVID-19 pandemic was declared are receiving some financial relief.
The university has established a debt elimination program for unpaid student account balances. The aid totals $800,000 which was allotted to the university through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).
According to students who were enrolled during the pandemic, almost everyone was affected financially.
“First-generation, rural kids, like people that are working four jobs to try to stay in school, that funding really will help them stay in college. Everyone was struggling around me,” said Daniel Lurie, a now graduate of MSU Billings.
Lurie said that many students had to contemplate even staying in school due to the toll the pandemic had, which is why he thinks the new program will be a big relief for students.
“I think the funding is great through the university, whether it be the forgiveness or kind of the accounts being frozen now. It could make or break if a student stays in college or not for another semester because it pays off their balance and they can continue trying to pursue a brighter and bigger future,” said Lurie.
Bossan Abdyyeba, an international student and senior at MSU Billings, said the country she is from (Turkmenistan) shut down during the pandemic. That stopped her family from being able to send money due to banks being closed.
“It was just really hard to deal with it,” said Abdyyeba.
She said she went to the Business Office on campus to set up customized payment methods which would make it easier for her to balance tuition costs along with normal living costs as a student.
At this time international students are not eligible to receive funding through the debt elimination program, but Abdyyeda said she benefitted from other programs.
“I could not buy a lot of food that I wanted because of dietary (restrictions). I usually buy off-campus vegetables. We (international students) had a CARES Act funding if you could explain how it affected you,” said Abdyyeda.
She said that she was thrilled to find that this funding was available to both domestic and international students.
Along with the debt elimination program, The Montana University System Board of Regents decided not to increase tuition for the upcoming school year. Montana State University Billings Chancellor Stefani Hicswa said combined, this will take a weight off the shoulder of students.
“This is an opportunity for students to be able to focus on their studies focus on getting enrolled and what they need to take for next fall, and then be able to be successful. We are thrilled to be able to help ease the burden on students. Any financial assistance that we can give, we are committed,” said Hicswa.
For more information on student relief funding and financial assistance visit http://www.msubillings.edu/