Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there may be a lot of uncertainty surrounding your college experience. Whether you’re a prospective student, current student, or recent graduate, you’re probably wondering how the current state of the world will impact your college journey or your ability to pay for it.
As the result of COVID-19, many students have been left scrambling for answers. However, you should have peace of mind in knowing you have options regardless of your personal circumstances. To help ease looming concerns and financial stress, here are four ways you may be able to pay for college during the crisis.
1. Federal work-study
Many students participate in federal work-study (FWS) programs to help finance their college education. If you rely on a work-study job to help pay for school and are employed by an organization that has closed as the result of a declared disaster, you should still expect to receive pay for any hours you were scheduled to work.
According to the US Department of Education, institutions may continue to pay FWS students during closures so long as they’re still paying their essential employees and meeting their institution wage share requirement. So if you held a work-study position at the time of closure, check in with your supervisor to coordinate compensation.
2. Personal and student loans
Given the current economic climate and low (to no) interest rates, you may be able to access more funds by refinancing your loans. For students, this could mean refinancing your federal student loans to secure a lower rate. (Note: As of now, student loan interest has been suspended by the US government amid the crisis.) You’ll lose out on any existing federal loan benefits like zero-interest or income-driven plans. However, you may be able to save money in the long run if you have a steady income, a good credit score, and are able to meet the lower monthly payments.
If your parent or guardian assists you in paying for school, they may also be able to free up additional funds by leveraging their assets. For instance, they could refinance their mortgage or apply for a home equity loan, which could be used toward your education. Be sure to consult a financial advisor on other ways you can get the most of the current market conditions.
Related: Types of Loans Explained: Federal vs. Private
3. Financial aid appeals
If you or a parent has lost their job or experienced a significant pay cut as a direct result of the current crisis, you may qualify for additional aid from your university. Should you find yourself in this situation, you can submit an appeal to your college’s financial aid office for additional tuition assistance. Any adjustments to your financial aid package or cost of attendance will be made on a case-by-case basis.
If you choose to appeal for a larger financial aid package, contact your financial aid office to learn about the application process. Some schools offer an online form, while others require you to detail your special circumstances in a letter and support your claims with documentation.
4. Prorated refunds
As universities continue to close their campuses and move classes online, students have faced a slew of unexpected costs, including travel, moving expenses, and rent. To help ease the financial burden, some schools are offering prorated refunds for expenses such as unused room and board and meal plans.
Specific terms and conditions will vary by institution. While there are universities offering prorated refunds, others are applying refunds as credit toward charges for the following semester. Meanwhile, colleges that rely on auxiliary fees to support operations aren’t able to provide refunds at all. That’s why it’s important to check in with your respective financial aid office to find out how much you should expect to get back.
Related: Moving Out and Moving Online Amid a Pandemic
At a time when there are still a lot of unknowns, you must focus on the factors that are in your control. Leverage your resources and know that you have options even in the face of economic crises.
For more advice to get you through this uncertain time, check out our COVID-19 resources.