For many families, the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed their financial circumstances. For those with children going to college in the fall, it has created even more of a financial burden and has left many wondering how they are going to pay for it. Even those that will receive financial aid from the school may still owe more than they can now afford.
More than 69% of parents and 55% of students entering college in the fall said the coronavirus has impacted their ability to pay for school. With many non-essential businesses forced to close, not only are parents across the country suddenly facing extended furloughs or lay-offs, but many students have also lost the ability to work to help pay for school.
If you find yourself in this situation and are unsure of how you will come up with the money to pay for college this coming fall, there are a few things you can do to potentially help with the financial burden.
TRY TO GET MORE FINANCIAL AID
Anyone in financial need should be reaching out to their college or university as soon as possible – time is of the essence. Since most students filed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid form) in the fall, their circumstances were likely much different back then. Now families can amend their FAFSA form or ask the college financial aid office for a “professional judgement review.” If there are need-based issues beyond what was noted in the financial aid paperwork, such as increased health-related expenses or the loss of a job, those should be explained to the school and documented, if possible. Death, illness and income loss are always grounds for revisit the FAFSA. The best way to make a request is to write an appeal letter to the school’s financial aid office.
APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS
More than 8 in 10 families tap scholarships and grants to help cover costs since money that does not have to be paid back is considered the most desirable kind of assistance — and some of this funding is still available.
Even though it is somewhat late in the game, try to go after private scholarships and grants. Students should look for local scholarships, particularly from organizations in their community, where the odds of getting an award are better than national competitions. Typically, there are thousands of scholarships offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations. There are many ways to search for scholarships – you can check with your school’s financial aid office, your high school counseling office, or the U.S. Department of Labor’s FREE scholarship search tool to name a few.
RECONSIDER YOUR COLLEGE CHOICES
Due to increased financial concerns, students and families may be more likely to choose local and less-expensive public schools rather than private universities away from home. After spending the first two years at a community college, you can transfer to a four-year, in-state public university and save a lot of money. At least 30 states have policies that guarantee that students with an associate degree can then transfer to a four-year school as a junior.
These are uncertain times for all of us and the financial burden of paying for college is weighing on many minds during this pandemic. Even though there is no guarantee you’ll be granted more financial aid or scholarships if you apply, they are two good options if you are trying to figure out how to afford tuition in the fall. Many schools are also pushing back their decision deadline from May 1 to June 1 to give families a little breathing room to make their choice.
Remember, you are not alone in this and many families are going through the same struggles right now. If you are a currently enrolled college student and are looking for more detailed information about the impact of Covid-19 on your student loans, the Federal Student Aid website is a great resource. In addition, if you need any help at all trying to figure out how you are going to pay for college in the fall, or if you have other financial questions, please call us – we are happy to help!