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‘Comeback Compact’ to Forgive Student Debt and Get Students Back to College

‘Comeback Compact’ to Forgive Student Debt and Get Students Back to CollegeAgreement will bring students with “stranded credits” back to campus

CLEVELAND (August 3, 2022) – Cleveland State University has partnered with seven other Northeast Ohio colleges and universities to help students who dropped out of college get back to school by settling debt and releasing their transcripts.  

The Ohio College Comeback Compact is contacting 15,000 students with a proposition: come back to any public college in the region, even if you owe money and your transcript is being held because of it. Eligible students who previously attended one of the eight colleges and universities in Northeast Ohio can register for classes at CSU or any of the participants.

As students make progress toward a degree or certificate, they can shed up to $5,000 in student debt owed to their former college or university and reclaim their “stranded credits”— course credits earned that are inaccessible to them due to unpaid balances.

“This compact is a great step toward improved access to higher education in Ohio,” said CSU president Laura J. Bloomberg, Ph.D. “With this new initiative, we welcome back adult learners who are at a disadvantage without a completed degree and a full transcript. The public institutions in our region are coming together to better serve our students by removing the barriers that prevent graduation, enabling more adult learners to become community and industry leaders.”

The eight participating Northeast Ohio public institutions— CSU, Cuyahoga Community College, Kent State University, Lakeland Community College, Lorain County Community College, Stark State College, The University of Akron and Youngstown State University—announced their partnership at the end of 2021 and have substantial transfer pipelines to tap into.

“The pandemic has interrupted the aspirations of so many students,” said Jonathan Wehner, CSU vice president and dean of admissions, enrollment management and student success. “We hope that students come back and resume their studies at CSU, but we really view our mission as educating the workforce of Northeast Ohio. So, we would rather a student finish their degree at another institution than not finish at all.”

An estimated 6.6 million students nationwide have stranded credits, owing $15.4 billion in outstanding tuition and fees to former institutions. Some 95% of all U.S. institutions use administrative holds on transcripts as collateral against the debt. This prevents students from reenrolling or applying for work—impacting students of color and from low socioeconomic backgrounds disproportionately.  

The Ohio College Comeback Compact is the first-of-its-kind collaboration among public colleges and universities, supported in part by nonprofit organizations Ithaka S+R and College Now Greater Cleveland, as well as the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Northeast Ohio stands to benefit from the Compact: students will be on track to earn a degree or certification; colleges gain tuition revenue through increased enrollment; and local economies will thrive as more individuals are better prepared for a wide variety of jobs.

Students interested in participating in the Ohio College Comeback Compact should contact the Cleveland State University Transfer Center at or by phone at 216-687-5568.


About Cleveland State University

Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public research institution that provides a dynamic setting for Engaged Learning. With nearly 16,000 students, ten colleges and schools and more than 175 academic programs, CSU was again chosen for 2021 as one of America’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report, including the #1 public university in Ohio for social mobility. Find more information at