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Impacted by Coronavirus? Get More Financial Aid

Emergency funding is still available to students that need financial assistance.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

September 15, 2021

File your FAFSA and advocate for yourself in order to qualify for more financial aid.
Impacted by Coronavirus? Get More Financial Aid
According to YaleMedicine.org, the Delta variant of the Coronavirus first surfaced in India in December 2020. From there, it made its way to the United Kingdom and now accounts for a majority of COVID cases in the United States. Compared to other strains of the virus, it is extremely contagious and is solely responsible for the surge in COVID cases that we are seeing now. All of this to say that COVID is still impacting students and their families around the country. As a result, financial aid will play a large role in determining whether or not students will be able to attend college during the 2022 – 23 academic year. If you are a student or family that has experienced undue hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be eligible for more financial aid. Below, we’ll detail what you need to know and do in order to get more financial aid.

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  1. Fill out the FAFSA.

    What is the best way to expedite your requests for more financial aid? Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. This document becomes available on October 1, and we recommend that students complete the form as soon as possible. The FAFSA application asks specific questions about your family’s financial circumstances, and the information that you provide will help federal, state, and college financial aid officers determine how much financial aid you should receive. When your school has your FAFSA on hand, they can get a quicker look at your circumstances. You may also be asked to fill out supplemental forms from your state and, or college. Complete these as well as they include questions that the FAFSA may not ask. Once you’ve completed your FAFSA, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
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  3. Ask about COVID-19 Emergency Grants.

    In 2020 and early 2021, colleges and universities were given billions of dollars in funds through three different roll-outs of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). These funds were designated to help colleges and universities navigate expenses due to COVID disruptions but also go directly to students who were in need of emergency funding. Under HERFF III, colleges are permitted to disperse aid for students that qualify and need funding for: • Any component of their cost of attendance • Emergency costs that arise due to coronavirus, such as: tuition; food; housing; health care (including mental); child care

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    Technically, all students are eligible for emergency grants, but those that qualify for Pell Grants will be given priority consideration, according to NASFAA. NASFAA also states that: “While ED's [Education Department] guidance does not require a FAFSA, having one on file would be the only practicable way for an institution to determine that a student is eligible to participate in the Title IV programs and meet all of applicable student eligibility requirements. Without having a FAFSA on file, schools would need to verify that a student meets the Title IV eligibility criteria. So, file your FAFSA. It’s more important this year than ever.
  4. Get a financial aid appeal.

    Students and families will need to advocate for themselves throughout the financial aid application process. There may be events or circumstances that are not reflected on the FAFSA but directly complicate a student’s ability to pay for their education. The U.S. Department of Education states that the following may cause your FAFSA to be inaccurate: • A layoff; • Incarceration; • Reduction in hours worked; • A parent or guardian’s divorce or separation; • A serious illness or disability in your family, which causes a reduction in income or increased medical expenses; • A death in your family; or • Loss of income from a rental property, court settlement, or alimony. In the event that one of the above applies to you, answer all of the questions on the FAFSA. There will undoubtedly not be questions where you can state the above. That’s ok. Your next step after submitting the FAFSA will be contacting the colleges you have applied to in order to speak with a representative from the college to appeal your financial aid package. You will discuss the change in circumstances with a representative from the college, and they will amend your financial aid package as necessary. They may ask for proof of your circumstances, so be ready with the proper documentation.
  5. Apply for SNAP and Discounted Internet.

    There are a few other benefits that students may qualify for if they’ve completed the FAFSA. The first are SNAP benefits, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This program works to help students and their families supplement their food budget in order to afford healthier meal options. SNAP eligibility has been extended under the Consolidated Appropriations Act to include: • Students that participate in a state funded work study program or the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program during the regular school year; or • have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of 0 in the current academic year. Finally, Pell Grant recipients qualify for discounted Internet service as well as a one-time discount for a connected device. Monthly discounts for households can be as high as $75 off. These participating households can also get $100 the purchase of a new laptop, desktop, or tablet – as long as they contribute between $10 and $50 toward the new device.
If you’ve been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is hope that you will still be able to afford and attend college. You just have to be prepared. That includes filling out the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 and working to advocate for yourself. Fortunately, government entities, colleges, and financial aid officers want to help and see you succeed. Take advantage of the opportunities they’re presenting.

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