Oakton relieves nearly $1 million in student debt with remaining COVID relief funds

Overall, Oakton has allocated almost $12 million of federal COVID-19 relief funds to students.

Des Plaines, Ill. (March 21, 2023) – Oakton College is demonstrating its commitments to helping students reach their educational goals and advancing racial equity by using its remaining federal institutional COVID-19 funds to relieve outstanding balances due to the College. Oakton recently allocated about $920,000 to forgive outstanding balances incurred by Oakton students during the pandemic.

Nearly 1,200 students enrolled during the five semesters between spring 2020 and summer 2021 had an average outstanding balance of $689 relieved. About two-thirds identify as students of color. Additional funds eradicated application fees owed by prospective students.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of many of our students, disproportionately impacting students of color,” said Oakton President Joianne L. Smith, Ph.D. “By removing balances for the students enrolled at Oakton between spring 2020 and summer 2021, we are helping our students reduce their financial burden and creating pathways for them to reach their goals.”

Since 2020, Oakton was awarded $13 million in institutional funds and $9 million in student funds via Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding (HEERF) grants from the U.S. Department of Education. A portion of the institutional funds was used to provide economic relief to students experiencing financial hardship early in the pandemic. In total, Oakton has provided nearly $12 million directly to students.

Around a third of the $13 million in institutional funds covered pandemic-related revenue shortfalls. The College also used almost $2 million of its institutional funds received early during the pandemic to discount tuition for qualifying students to provide additional relief for the student body.

The remaining institutional funding was used to obtain additional instructional equipment and supplies to support the remote and hybrid learning environments, provide or subsidize high-speed internet, invest in faculty and staff training in online instruction, purchase of PPE supplies and other initiatives to increase safety and improve the student learning experience.

As the community’s college, Oakton and its future are closely tied to the circumstances of our communities and the economic environment. The disruptions of the pandemic and the ensuing economic slowdown have caused various challenges for Oakton and its students — as they have for most higher education institutions. The College has responded to these ongoing challenges with a renewed determination to expand the community’s access to educational opportunities, close persistent gaps in equity and support the region’s employers with a steady stream of well-prepared workers.

Oakton’s strategic plan, Vision 2030: Building Just and Thriving Communities, affirms an invigorated commitment to students as Oakton adopts new strategies for ensuring their learning, persistence and attainment. The plan focuses on three strategic goals, which include: strengthening students’ Oakton Experience, enhancing workforce readiness and community engagement, and advancing racial equity.

Summer 2023 registration opens March 23. Eight-week classes begin on June 5, and seven-week classes begin on June 12. To learn more about Oakton, our degrees and programs, and to apply, please visit Oakton's website.