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What COVID-19 Means for Your College Financial Aid

The coronavirus is changing all aspects of life, including college life. As infection rates are evolving daily, so too are decisions about how colleges will handle classes and housing for the coming academic year. Students who had banked on financial aid to help fund college costs naturally may have questions about the impact COVID-19 will have. Here are some answers that may help.

Temporary Forbearance for Existing Loans
Students with existing student loans can breathe easier, thanks to the CARES Act, which became law on March 27, 2020. Among other things, it provides broad relief for federal student loan borrowers.

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According to the US Department of Education, federal student loan borrowers are automatically placed in an administrative forbearance, giving them the option to temporarily stop making monthly loan payments until Sept. 30, 2020, if they choose. During that time, borrowers may be able to take advantage of 0% interest on their federal student loans, depending on the type of loan it is and who owns it. Contact your loan servicer online or by phone to determine if your loans are eligible.

Adjusting for a New Economic Reality
Before COVID-19, you may not have anticipated needing financial aid, or not needing as much as you were awarded. But don’t worry; it is not too late to adjust your plans.

First things first: If you never completed a FAFSA previously, but want to seek federal financial aid now, complete the FAFSA as soon as possible. If you did submit the FAFSA and were awarded aid, but did not borrow your full loan eligibility, now’s the time to apply for additional funding.

If your or your family’s financial situation has changed significantly from what is reflected on your federal income tax return (for example, if you’ve lost a job or otherwise experienced a drop in income), you may be eligible to have your financial aid adjusted. The Department of Education recommends submitting an income reduction appeal or special circumstances appeal to your financial aid office.

Get Help and Answers
Where to start? Each school has specific processes and timelines to follow when it comes to financial aid. Some schools, like Concordia University, are offering virtual consultations with their financial planning team. The University of Texas’ Texas One-Stop website provides virtual and phone assistance. Austin Community College students can get answers and help with financial aid questions by emailing finaid@austincc.edu.

Consider the following helpful COVID-19 resources for students: