For current college students the Coronavirus has completely flipped typical campus learning environments from normal to a bizarre. Whereas many college students would normally be returning to their campuses from spring break, most students are at home, beginning their spring semester courses online per the Center for Disease Control’s
recommendations. For some families, the COVID-19 Pandemic may have a serious economic hold on students’ and/or their parents expected financial resources.
For instance, students that once worked in the restaurant industries to help pay for their education have now found themselves without work. Parents’ supplementing their child’s college education are now facing salary reductions. Many parents and students are wondering if they can get more financial aid. Students in the federal work study program are concerned they may not get paid.
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The good news is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act
, signed into law on March 27, provides emergency financial aid flexibility and protection for college students. Here's the good news and financial aid details you should know:
You can ask for emergency financial aid.
You’ve always had the ability to appeal for more financial aid. However, if you or your family has been severely impacted by the Coronavirus, you have even more reason to appeal. In fact, the news station WHSV
suggests that many universities are preparing for an increase in financial aid appeals.
suggests students worried about staying in college due to lack of funds should speak to a financial aid officer at their school. Adding they “...have the flexibility to work with students...”
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As many financial aid award letters were recently sent, even newly admitted students can appeal their just-issued award letters!
To ask for emergency financial aid, your first step is to contact the financial aid office at your university.
Kindly, ask how you can formally submit an emergency financial aid appeal. Most financial aid employees are willing to help, but before they can provide you with the best guidance for your situation, they’ll likely need to ask some questions. Be patient and understanding as they try to navigate the best solution to your financial situation.
In Mark Kantrowitz's Forbes
article, he advises there are several COVID-19 circumstances that could provide reason for emergency financial aid funds. Some of these include:
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• “Lost wages due to illness, a quarantine period or shelter-in-place order"
• “Costs of returning home and putting belongings in storage after the college orders
students to vacate the dorms”
If you’re a federal work-study student and your work has been cut, you will continue to receive your financial aid.
Whether issued via a one-time payment or in multiple payments, you will get your work-study financial aid promised per the recently passed, CARES Act. Section 3505
of the measure clarifies, “Payments may be made under such part to affected work-study students in an amount equal to or less than the amount of wages such students would have been paid under such part had the students been able to complete the work obligation necessary to receive work study funds...”
Contact your financial aid department for payment details and to complete all paperwork necessary to ensure you receive your work-study funds.
You had an on-campus job, but your college campus has closed.
If you were employed on campus but lost your job due to campus closure, it’s likely your circumstance would be considered a high need for emergency financial aid assistance. Contact your college financial aid office to let them know your circumstances and to ask how to officially claim emergency financial aid.
Pass/fail grades will not affect your financial aid.
To manage the influence of the COVID-19 outbreak, many universities are moving to pass/fail grades as an option for the spring semester. Live updates are covered daily by Inside Higher Education
, such as grading updates .
Under typical circumstances your grades must follow the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards to ensure your financial aid eligibility. However, the CARES Act allows for some grade flexibility and has lowered the SAP due to the national emergency.
article explains that the Act, “...allows colleges and universities to exclude from the minimum 2.0 GPA requirement for Satisfactory Academic Progress any attempted credits that were incomplete due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Ask for help if you’re worried about failing a course and/or losing your financial aid because of COVID-19 circumstances.
More Finance Questions?
If you still have questions about unemployment, the possibility of getting an emergency stimulus check as a student or other COVID-19 financial concerns, Mark Kantrowitz addresses current college-student challenges in a recent personal finance article
Communication is Vital
Most colleges have developed Coronavirus web pages to provide students with the latest information, common financial aid questions and resources. Stay aware of the latest information, by checking your school’s website and social media accounts daily.
The most important advice we can offer is to keep your communication lines open. For instance, if you’re struggling with your online format, email your professor to ask for help. However, do not wait until the end of your spring semester to communicate your concerns. If you cannot afford to pay for internet service while taking online courses or you’ve lost your job, contact your college’s financial aid administrator or office.
The reality is this is stressful; we’re all scrambling to traverse this historic national emergency together (including the world of higher education). Be kind and remain patient
as you ask for financial help or advice. Stay transparent.
The more honest you are about your situation, the more likely that you’ll get the help you need.