East Carolina University will use about $960,000 in federal relief funds to clear outstanding student balances from summer and fall for about 625 students, the university announced on Wednesday.

The money is part of $53.1 million the university expects to see from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III, part of the American Rescue Plan signed into law on March 11, a news release from the university said. The fund provides $39.6 billion to institutions of higher education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ECU announced that its leaders have outlined a plan to use the university’s share of the funding to bolster access, affordability and campus safety in addition to clearing student debt.

Stephanie Coleman, interim vice chancellor for administration and finance, said the debt forgiveness is intended to provide relief for students facing hardships due to the pandemic and will affect about 625 students.

ECU’s expected $53.1 million in funding includes $27.3 million for student aid and $25.8 million in institutional aid, the news release said. Areas of focus for UNC System institutions include public health, affordability, access, student success and IT security.

“ECU is fortunate to receive these one-time federal funds to support our students and university as we come through this pandemic,” Chancellor Philip Rogers said in the release. “We will invest these dollars in meaningful ways to support the university community and to ensure our institution is prepared to serve our students and our region not only now, but 10 years from now.”

In addition to continued COVID-19 mitigation including saliva, PCR and wastewater testing, ECU will invest in additional counseling resources in anticipation of an increased need for services. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs, said tele-therapy options and opportunities would be increased.


“We already had a large demand for counseling services prior to the pandemic, and we anticipate that same demand or even higher,” Hardy said. “We want to be sure we’re ready to help our students and employees acclimate to being back on campus and address the traumas of the past year.”

Some of the funds will be used to offset lost revenues in areas such as housing and dining.

Access and student success initiatives include employing additional tutors and academic coaches, providing many large, high-demand classes with learning assistants, and providing summer tuition grants. ECU will also expand summer course offerings to help students catch up on or accelerate their progress toward degree completion.

ECU will expand and enhance its use of artificial intelligence/automation technologies across campus to better serve students. A virtual course design project will assist faculty in enhancing pedagogy in online instruction for strategically targeted courses by providing instructional designers, cutting-edge technology, and faculty grants for professional development.

Additionally, IT security and capacity will be bolstered to accommodate the increased adoption of remote and virtual teaching methods.

“We are being proactive in working to meet the needs of our students, our campus family and our community both now and in the future,” said Interim Provost Grant Hayes. “In addition to providing financial support to our students, this funding will also be used to greatly enhance structures and systems to ensure student success. Student success is at the core of ECU’s mission and we know that students succeed when we devote our energies to continuously improving their experiences in and out of the classroom.”

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.