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June 23, 2020

College Financial Aid After COVID-19

by Steve Doster
As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding what the future will look like as we begin to recover from this pandemic. One major concern for students and parents alike is what college financial aid will look like next Fall and Spring.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge financial impact on many people.

Since the pandemic exploded in the US in early March, millions of people have lost their jobs, or their business was shut down, forcing them into unemployment. Even though this unemployment is temporary for some, there is no telling when the world will return to normal and it will be safe to go back to work. This has left parents in a difficult position, struggling just to pay their monthly bills.

If you are an incoming freshman in Fall of 2020, it will be even more difficult for you to get adequate financial aid, as financial aid is determined based on your family’s income from two years ago. This means the aid you qualify for now will likely not be enough based on your income today.

Never fear – even though times are tough right now, there is still hope! You have the ability to appeal to your school’s financial aid office to have your aid adjusted in light of job loss or decreased income.

Contact your college financial aid office right away.

When it comes to appealing for additional financial aid, you want to present your college financial aid office with information regarding the special circumstances that have impacted your ability to pay for college. Special circumstances can include loss of a job or decreased income, catastrophic loss like that from a national disaster, or the death of a dependent student’s parent.

You can appeal for additional financial aid at any time, but it is recommended that you begin the process as soon as you can after the special circumstance has occurred. The first thing you should do is call your college financial office, inform them of the changes to your financial situation and inquire about the appeal process for more financial aid.

Most often, the next step will be an appeal letter. You will need to explain the special circumstance that has occurred and its impact on you and your family. Be specific and concise as you outline the dates you lost your job or had to close your business. Include documentation of the special circumstance, such as copies of layoff notices, medical/dental bills, or bank and brokerage account statements. Be sure to attach copies of these documents, as they will not be returned. You should focus on the financial impact of this circumstance. Do not ask for a specific increased amount of financial aid. This could actually hurt you. Let the financial aid department determine the amount of additional aid you will receive.

Be polite in your letter.

There is no appeal past the college financial aid administrator. This person will be determining the amount of aid you will receive, so be sure to remain polite and professional in your communication. Conclude your letter by thanking the administrator for his or her time. Remember, especially now, we are all in a tough situation, with many of us working from home in less-than-ideal conditions. Financial aid administrators are experiencing the same difficult circumstances as the rest of us.

Ask your college financial aid administrator about grants from the CARES Act.

The CARES Act included funding for colleges called the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). This money was granted so that these institutions can provide financial aid grants to students who are facing financial challenges in light of the situation with COVID-19. Each college is awarding this money to students in different ways. Some are giving the same amount per student while others are distributing this funding to students on an emergency basis. Contact your college to see how they are handling the money they have received from the CARES Act.

Your college financial aid office needs to know that you have been impacted by this pandemic.

If you are in need of additional funds, you must reach out and make an appeal. If you do not, your college will not know your financial situation has changed, and will use their funding to help those they do know about. Contact your college financial aid office today!

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