COVID-19 economic impact could affect college financial aid

Posted at 11:55 AM, Apr 20, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the world of higher education, the coronavirus upended the usual spring semester.

“I think this is a very uncertain time for many of us, including our students,” said Tosha Lewis, vice president of partnerships with Washington, D.C.’s College Access Program .

DC-CAP is a nonprofit that helps students entering university life, by teaching them how to navigate the financial aid process.

“Many of them do face uncertain futures,” Lewis said.

With financial situations changing because of the coronavirus, parents and students need to reevaluate their previous financial aid applications.

To flag any changes, they need to contact the school’s financial aid office and ask for a “professional judgment process.” The move could help them get more college aid.

“They're asking the financial aid office to reassess their financial need based on new circumstances, that may not have been applicable when they filed taxes,” Lewis said.

For students already attending college, there’s more. Because many campuses closed their doors, they may be eligible for a refund, for either on-campus housing or a meal plan, that they didn’t end up using in full.

“In some cases, the student might have a credit and be entitled to a refund check for the spring term,” Lewis said.

The federal government, through the recent economic stimulus “CARES Act” is also making more money available for impacted college students.

“The Department of Education is also announcing the availability of more than $6 billion in emergency grant funding, to assist college students impacted by the cancellation of classes and the suspension of housing,” President Donald Trump said during a coronavirus briefing on April 9.

For those who are about to graduate – or recently did – there’s also a break on student loan repayments.

“Federal student loan payments have been suspended until the end of September,” Lewis said. “And so, what that also means is, during that time period, student loan interest is not accruing for our students who hold federal student loans.”

The small changes, when combined, could have a big impact on the wallets of students and their families.