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Getting more Financial Aid for the Fall 2020 College Semester

Jun 10, 2020

Covid-19 dramatically changed the landscape for college students during the Spring of 2020. What will happen in the fall?  If your financial circumstances changed, you may be eligible for more financial aid.

In these wildly uncertain times, it’s crucial to stay informed. For the most up to date information about plans the colleges have for the fall semester, check the college’s website or this list, which The Chronicle of Higher Education has been updating regularly.

For the fall, colleges are working to:

  • Incorporate social distancing requirements
  • Assess how to deliver instruction: in person, remotely or a hybrid model
  • Differentiate instruction among majors. Will one model of instruction be available to all students or will it depend on major? How will lab classes be conducted?
  • Redefine housing policies, social activities and sports programs
  • Modify classrooms, lecture halls, laboratories, dining facilities, dormitories and common areas

In addition to those customer facing decisions to provide a safe learning environment, colleges are grappling with their business models to determine the effect all of this will have on their current revenues and future business prospects. Colleges are adjusting to these uncertain times in different ways. Understandably, the challenges facing a large urban research university are very different from a state university system or a small, private rural college.

Some colleges and universities are:

  • Offering more financial aid to assist students whose financial circumstances have changed as a result of illness, job loss and other CV-19 related circumstances.
  • Admitting significantly more students from their wait list than in years past. Some of those students are also receiving financial aid awards, which was previously uncommon for wait-listed students.
  • Currently marketing or offering admission to recent high school graduates who live near their campus.  Recognizing that some very well qualified students may be reluctant to travel far from home, colleges are reaching out to local students with the hope of attracting them to stay closer to home. 

These circumstances afford current high school graduates and college students an opportunity to review their financial aid offers and appeal for more aid.  Much like a new car’s sticker price, your financial aid package may be negotiable. 

File for Aid 

Current college students who received financial aid must re-apply for aid on an annual basis. Even if no aid was received when your family first filed, it’s critical to keep the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) up to date.  The FAFSA is required in order to be eligible for federal grants or student loans and for many other forms of state-based and some institutional aid.

The FAFSA is used to help colleges determine how much money a family can contribute to their student’s education. Once a college understands the family’s financial situation, they allocate need-based grants and aid to eligible students.

What can change your financial aid situation?

  • Illness that creates large medical bills and/or loss of income
  • Job loss, furlough or other drastic change in household income
  • The death of a family member, particularly the breadwinner
  • Siblings going to college

If your family’s circumstances have changed as a result of CV-19, you may be able to appeal for increased financial aid.

Be prepared to submit a financial aid appeal outlining changes in household income and provide supporting documents like tax returns, pay stubs, statement of employment, and other required forms.

If you HAVE NOT filed – there still may be time

Due to current circumstances, some states extended their FAFSA deadlines for the 2020-2021 academic year. Check with your state and college to see if the deadline has been extended.

Extensions provide families the opportunity to apply for state-based grants, scholarships, and loans. Although most states have strict deadlines that have already passed, the FAFSA application can be filed for federal aid through June 30, 2021. Read this article for tips on filing FAFSA

If you HAVE filed – you can make changes 

There are two primary financial aid applications, the FAFSA and the CSS profile. If your family has experienced changes in your financial standing, communicate with your school financial aid officer. Alterations can be made with logical fact-based appeals.

  • FAFSA: If your family has already submitted the 2020-2021 FAFSA, contact your school and show your financial situation has changed dramatically from what was reflected in the original application. Your financial aid officer will work with you to make the necessary changes. Corrections and updates to already filed FAFSA applications may be corrected or updated through September 11, 2021.  
  • CSS Profile: If your family has already submitted the 2020-2021 CSS profile, but needs to make adjustments, first contact your school’s financial aid office. Alterations to the CSS profile can be made by simply printing the submitted application, physically marking the changes, and faxing the new copy to the college.

There are no guarantees that you will get more aid, but well documented appeals due to financial stress and hardship related to CV-19 could result in a larger financial aid award. In these uncertain times it’s certainly worth trying.