Students who left their campus in droves as the stay-at-home orders arrived often faced a whole new financial reality.
They had to move in a hurry, racking up unforeseen travel and moving expenses. Their rented apartments, dorms and meal plans are no longer in use. They may have lost a job or left one. They may need broadband access or even a new computer to complete the semester remotely.
To top it off, the home they are in may be facing financial hardship.
In the third week of the coronavirus pandemic, half of college students and high school students linked to the university said their family finances had been affected, according to a survey of 1,000 students by SimpsonScarborough, a marketing firm and higher education research institute in Alexandria, Virginia. With millions of people losing their jobs every week, that number has only increased since.
Get a refund from your school
Those who had to leave dorms early will likely receive a refund for room and board – the coronavirus relief law has allocated money to colleges specifically for this purpose. You can expect a prorated amount, not the total cost you paid for the semester. Your college’s financial aid office will have information on how to receive a refund.
If you receive a cash refund instead of a credit to your account, you can use that money to pay for any education, travel, or living expenses you incurred as a result.
But if your room and meals were paid for with a student loan and you don’t need the repayment to make ends meet, consider returning it to the lender. Making a payment now prevents interest from accruing before the official start of the repayment. Contact your student loan manager, the company that manages your loan, or a private lender to make a payment with your repayment.
Request emergency help from your college
The Education Department sends billions of dollars to colleges through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Relief Act. About $ 6.28 billion is specifically earmarked for colleges to distribute to students in the form of emergency cash grants. The grants can be used to pay for technology and supplies related to education, housing, food, child care and health care, according to the Department of Education.
“We process applications very quickly, but it’s up to schools how they choose to provide funding to their students,” a spokesperson for the Department of Education said in an email. So far, about half of eligible schools have applied to receive the grant, according to the ministry.
You are eligible to receive an emergency grant whether or not you have applied for free federal student aid. However, your school may require the FAFSA from those who have not completed it before in order to receive assistance.
“Some may take a more holistic approach” to students who receive need-based aid, like a Pell scholarship, while others may require an application, says Ben Miller, vice president of post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress, a research on public policy. organization. “I could see some doing a balance where some are automatic and some are held for an application.”
Most schools are still in the early stages of determining distribution, but some have a plan.
At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, for example, students with previously identified financial need will receive $ 1,100 each of the $ 2.8 million the school will receive. About 20% of the population will be eligible, Vanderbilt estimates.
At the University of Connecticut, students are asked to email the financial aid office, which triggers a review of their emerging financial needs, according to Stephanie Reitz, spokesperson for the university and head of relations with the media.
Your school may also have its own emergency fund. These programs generally require students to apply.
At the State University of New York at Cortland, a student emergency fund has been established and funded by donations from donors. So far, the school has received just under 200 applications and has authorized around $ 36,500 in emergency student aid grants for food, rent and technology, says Frederic Pierce, director of communications. to college.
The type of emergency and the size of the purses will likely vary, Miller says, but the common thread will be an ability to demonstrate that the need arises, in some way, from the impacts of the coronavirus.
Only students eligible for federal financial assistance can receive the funding, leaving those participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and international students unable to tap this resource.
Update your FAFSA form
Your family’s finances may have looked very different when you submitted the FAFSA. But the form you submitted is not permanent; you can make changes and receive assistance retroactively, even if you have already received your financial aid award.
To update the reported information, log in to FAFSA.gov and submit the changes under “Make FAFSA Corrections”. Or you can contact your school’s financial aid office and ask them to make changes for you, especially if there will be a significant change in your income or that of your parents this school year, or if there is other family circumstances to point out that the FAFSA form does not require.
The deadline for updating is June 30 after the school year you need help. For the 2019-2020 school year, it’s June 30, 2020.
If you are thinking about how you are going to pay for school next year and you have already received a financial aid scholarship, you can file an appeal. Be sure to include a specific amount you are requesting and the reasoning for your request in your appeal.