COVID-19 is greatly impacting the way families will be able to look at paying for college this fall and beyond. As regular readers of this blog already know, there are many types of financial aid that are pulled together to help pay any expenses that the family cannot cover through its own resources. These include federal and state financial aid, federal and private student loans, and scholarships or grants.
As part of their financial aid packages, most colleges are able to offer substantial institutional scholarships to potential students. These scholarships are usually funded by generous endowments and grow through solid investment strategies. However, the likelihood of continuing to maintain those funds has now come into question due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Colleges have found their own financial resources severely diminished as they shortened the academic year and issued partial refunds. Now they are uncertain about their ability and their students’ willingness to return to full functioning in the fall. Endowments may have fallen, investment opportunities have diminished, and cash might be needed to keep the institution itself in operation. Although there might be some relief in federal stimulus packages, some have already taken drastic measures in terms of cutbacks and furloughs, and others are already drilling into their scholarship financial resources as well:
• University of Arizona: Graduate students who did not commit to attending in the fall may find that their funding offers have been withdrawn, although their admission offers are still intact. As of now, students who had already accepted their offers will find that they are still in place.
• Louisiana State University: The school’s Presidential Aid Scholarships have been reduced, and many students may lose access to anticipated on-campus jobs and research opportunities.
On the other hand, though, some colleges are deferring tuition for this fall, while others are working with local and state agencies to find new ways to support their students:
• Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina: Students from Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools will receive an annual $10,000 scholarship to attend the university.
• Universities in Kansas: The State offered $50,000 in scholarships to 20 high school students through its “Surprise A Senior” contest.”
While some colleges may find that they have to cut their scholarship offers, others could be willing to increase merit scholarships in order to attract certain students, so it is still important that families keep an open mind when contemplating college opportunities. Those on a waitlist might suddenly find they have been offered even more money than originally anticipated.
Although students should certainly stay in contact with their colleges to discuss their specific financial situation, one way to take better control of your own future is to embark on an intensive search for private scholarship opportunities. It may require a little more work than simply waiting for the college to provide you with a need-based or merit-based scholarship, but it is certainly worth it if you can ensure your own college future without worrying about external factors.
Students who have a financial aid commitment for 2020-21 may need to contact their college directly if they have experienced severe financial impacts from COVID-19. All students who will be filing the FAFSA in October of this year for 2021-22 should be aware that it will look to financial information from your 2019 tax returns. If your situation has changed dramatically, be prepared to offer documentation to support your case for increased financial aid.
CFAA will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as the financial aid picture becomes clearer over the coming months. Do not give up, but be flexible in your college plans and be willing to do a little more research to find the college and the financial support that can meet your needs. Options that are simply not available now could open up at any time. You might be surprised to find that you can still afford college once everything settles down some more. Be sure to look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and tune in for my weekly Twitter chat at #CollegeCash every Thursday at 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern for the latest updates. Stay safe.