YOUNGSTOWN – Youngstown State University is now part of a pilot initiative with seven other regional universities and community colleges to help students with unpaid debts re-enroll to complete their studies.

The main objective of the program is to address “Blocked credits” which are the ones that students earned but cannot access because their transcripts from their old college or university are withheld due to unpaid debts.

YSU joined Akron University, Lorain County Community College, Kent State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Stark State College, Cleveland State University and Lakeland Community College to participate to the effort, which could start awareness raising by the spring semester 2022 and allow students to re-enroll from fall 2022.

“This is yet another way for YSU to work with our partner universities and community colleges in the region to help students complete their studies.” Jeanne Herman, registrar of YSU, said in a statement.

In this sense, the university is developing a “Back to college” program to settle the debt of former YSU students who wish to re-enroll, Herman noted.

The other seven partners may have their versions of individual programs similar to the “Back to college” effort, tailored to the specific needs of their students, who are under the umbrella of the larger initiative, which can also be a tool to write off unpaid debts, she explained.

“It’s a barrier” Herman spoke of the accumulated debt preventing students from moving forward academically. “We try to make things more relative to help them get back to school.

In addition to helping them overcome their debts, the initiative can also help students find the right career paths by giving them a clearer roadmap for the courses they need to complete their degrees. Such advice can save them additional expenses that they would incur by walking away from unnecessary classes, Herman continued.

She and Sue Ewing, Bursar at YSU, are part of a team leading the entire project.

According to Ithaka S + R, a non-profit organization committed to helping academic and cultural communities better navigate demographic, economic and technological changes, approximately 60,000 students in Northeastern Ohio have blocked credits. The impetus is to expand access to higher education by improving student outcomes and reducing costs, its website says.

The accumulation of blocked loans linked to student debt is a “Lose-lose-lose proposal”, because those affected cannot confirm their credentials when entering the workforce or transfer credits to continue their studies, noted Martin Kurzweil, director of the Educational Transformation Program at Ithaka S + R.

In addition, these students often shoulder the burden of debt collection, Kurzweil said. However, universities and communities are also affected, he continued.

“Institutions (of higher education) lose because they usually only get pennies back on the dollar when balances are sent to collections, and many students forgo further education, which reduces enrollment,” Kurzweil explained. “And our communities are losing out because these administrative obstacles stifle adult education and training to fill in-demand jobs, which hinders economic development.”

Kurzweil estimated that 6.6 million students in the United States have frozen credits and collectively owe about $ 15.4 billion, with average balances ranging between $ 631 and $ 4,400 per student.

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