Northern Essex Uses Emergency Relief Fund to Help Students Start or Return to College

Northern Essex Community College student Bryan Fernandez of Lawrence. (Courtesy photograph.)

Those who could not enroll at, or left, Northern Essex Community College because of financial pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are now eligible to share in $2.58 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

Northern Essex student Bryan Fernandez of Lawrence, for example, was on track to graduate with his associate degree in Journalism/Communications this summer, but, almost could not because of student debt incurred during the pandemic. With help from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Fernandez is now on track to complete his degree—with high honors—by the end of August and transfer to UMass Lowell to continue his studies in the fall.

“It was a giant weight off my shoulders,” says Fernandez, whose work as a professional photographer slowed during COVID-19. “I felt like I was getting a break from the universe.”

Students have until Sept. 3 to submit applications for consideration.

The majority of the relief money, $1.63 million, is direct student aid to help students with educational expenses, including tuition and fees, books, course materials, internet, food and living expenses. Money is available to students taking credit courses, including high school students in the Early College Program, as well as students taking noncredit courses through Pies de Latinos, the Center for Adult Basic Education and Corporate and Community Education.

Another $957,000 from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund is being used to provide a fall laptop bookstore credit, $250,000; Start Right Grants for new students, $300,000; and assistance to returning students to help pay off student debt, $407,788.

Community College enrollments have dropped more dramatically than those in any other sector of higher education during the pandemic, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. Undergraduate enrollments across all sectors decreased by 4.5%, compared to community colleges nationwide which were down 9.5% last fall and 11.3% this spring. Northern Essex is doing better than most, with a 5% decrease in the fall and a 7% decrease in the spring.

To learn more about grants available to new and returning students, contact Enrollment Services by calling 978-556-3700 or emailing [email protected].

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