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NECC has Funding Available to Help New and Returning Students

Submitted by on June 21, 2021 – 1:29 pm

Bryan Fernandez of Lawrence will graduate with his associate degree this summer, thanks to financial support he received to pay off loans incurred during COVID.

Northern Essex Community College (Haverhill and Lawrence, MA) Journalism/Communications major Bryan Fernandez of Lawrence was on track to graduate with his associate degree this summer, but, because of student debt incurred during the pandemic, it didn’t look like he would be able to achieve that goal.

Thanks to an infusion of over $2.58 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which Northern Essex is directing toward student support, 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 has slowed during COVID-19, “I felt like I was getting a break from the universe.”

The funding Northern Essex has received will be used to help current students pay off college debt and cover educational expenses related to the disruption caused by COVID-19 and to assist both new and returning students with educational costs for the summer and fall semesters of 2021.

Applications for funding are being considered now, and students have until September 3 to apply.

“Many of our students have been hard hit by the pandemic,” said Lane Glenn, Northern Essex President. “Our hope is that by dedicating these funds to them, we will alleviate some of the financial challenges and help them get back on track with their education.”

The majority of the funding, $1.63 million, is direct student aid, designated to help students with educational expenses, which include tuition and fees, books, course materials, Internet, food, living expenses, etc. This funding is available to students taking credit courses, including high school students in the Early College Program, as well as students taking noncredit courses through PIÉS Latinos de NECC, the Center for Adult Basic Education, and Corporate and Community Education.

Northern Essex has also opted to use an additional $957,000 of the institutional funds which it received through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, to support students. Here’s how that funding is being allocated:

Fall Laptop Bookstore Credit, $250,000

New and returning students can apply for a bookstore credit to purchase a laptop that meets the requirements of their program.

Start Right Grant for New Students, $300,000

Six hundred grants of $500 each will be awarded to students who are new to the college and enrolled in six credits or more. These grants will help pay for fall tuition and fees. Apply for Start Right Grants here.

Finish What You Started for Returning Students, $407,788

These grants will help 522 returning students to pay off student debt from the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters and cover other educational expenses. Apply for Finish What You Started here.

Jennifer Mezquita, vice president of student affairs, encourages students and prospective students to reach out. “The pandemic has presented many challenges for our students; the good news is that we have resources to help them with some of the financial obstacles they’ve faced.”

Community College enrollments have dropped more dramatically than those in any other sector of higher education during the pandemic, according to stats recently released by the National Student Clearinghouse. Undergraduate enrollments across all sectors have 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.

“Most of the students who did not arrive on campus this fall because of the pandemic were low-income, first generation, students of color—the students we need to serve now more than ever,” said Glenn. “If fewer local residents are graduating from college, this will negatively impact our local economy.”

For the past two semesters, 90% of classes at the college have been offered online with just 10% face to face. In the fall, at least 25% of classes will be face-to-face, with social distancing and extra safety measures.

To learn more about funding available to new and returning students or programs and courses available this fall, contact Enrollment Services, 978 556-3700 or

Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  For more information, visit the website at or call 978-556-3700.