More than 4,300 Alamo Colleges District students will have their account balances paid off by the community college district as part of its plan to use millions in federal coronavirus relief funds.

Alamo Colleges will forgive $2.28 million owed by 4,389 students who have overdue balances from expenses — mostly tuition and fees — incurred from March 23, 2020, to June 8, spokeswoman Kay Hendricks said.

Each of the five community colleges in the district will use funds they received from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, American Rescue Plan Act, or both to pay off the student account balances.

The college district received more than $97.5 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed in March. Half of that money must go directly to students struggling because of the pandemic, according to the U.S. Education Department.

Alamo Colleges Chancellor Mike Flores said in a prepared statement that he hopes this investment will help students and families, who have endured a challenging time since the pandemic began in March 2020.

“Our entire Alamo Colleges District family has demonstrated great resilience over the last 18 months,” he said in the statement. “With the support of this federal emergency aid, our goal is to remove any barriers that may be keeping students from continuing their pursuit of higher education and a brighter future.”

Institutions received two pots of money — one for students and one for the school. Colleges and universities can spend the funds meant for the institution on students, which is what Alamo Colleges did with previous federal coronavirus relief funding.

About 30,000 Alamo Colleges students received some financial aid from their school from the first coronavirus relief act passed in March 2020 and the second relief package passed in December.

The U.S. Education Department is requiring higher education institutions to prioritize aid to students who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. Colleges and universities also can use the money to help retain and reengage students by providing academic and mental health support and eliminating student debt accrued during the pandemic. Additionally, part of the funds must be used to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campuses and to get students vaccinated. Institutions also can use the money to provide staff with paid time off to get vaccinated.

Alamo Colleges started the fall semester Aug. 23. Most classes are being held remotely for the first two weeks, switching to in-person instruction on Sept. 7 if it is safe to do so.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.