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Wayne County Community College District joined three other Metro Detroit institutions of higher education to offer former students debt forgiveness.

The college will offer relief of up to one half of total outstanding student debt for any students who did not complete their degree or certificate if they return to school at Wayne County Community College or other participating institutions in the partnership led by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

"We’re in an interesting period in higher education across the country, where enrollment is down," said Curtis Ivery, the college's chancellor. "Students are perhaps trying to be involved more in the workforce, but students are actually challenged with finding work because there is a skills gap."

The program expands upon its Tuition Amnesty Program it announced last year that reduced tuition and fees by 30%, and reduced past debt for returning students who had earned some college credits but had not completed a degree because of financial constraints. A couple thousand participate each semester, Ivery said. The new program could more than double those efforts, he said.

Wayne County Community College's tuition and fees for the 2018-2018 academic year was $2,904, according to its website.

The Detroit Regional Chamber announced the collaboration with Henry Ford College, Oakland University and Wayne State University on Tuesday. It seeks to increase southeast Michigan's postsecondary attainment from 44% to 60% by 2030. There are 693,000 adults in the region with college credits but no degree or certification.

bnoble@detroitnews.com

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