In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, many American families are under severe financial strain and parents of college-bound students are in need of financial aid. Many are facing a $40,000 college tuition bill.
Nearly 40% of parents who didn’t plan to apply for federal aid, now will as a result of the pandemic, according to a recent survey by Discover Student Loans.
Roughly half of parents lost income as a result of the pandemic and 44% said they can’t afford to pay for as much of their child’s education as they had originally planned, the survey found.
At the same time, college costs are skyrocketing.
Tuition and fees plus room and board for a four-year private college averaged $49,870 in the 2019-20 school year; at four-year, in-state public colleges, it was $21,950, according to the College Board.
Why it’s so important to fill out the FAFSA early
Every family should complete the FAFSA, especially this year when COVID-19 has affected a family’s ability to pay for college. FAFSA is the key to receiving financial aid from the government, the state, and even colleges themselves. Without the form, colleges will not disperse financial aid.
Families who have experienced a financial shock due to COVID-19 should reach out to the college financial aid office and ask for a “special circumstances” form to account for any changes in 2020.
According to a recent article from College Financial Aid Advisors:
Offers from selected colleges will be based on the income information from 2019; however, many families have undergone a tumultuous upheaval in this difficult year of 2020. Some lost loved ones due to the COVID pandemic, others lost income or saw their earning capabilities slashed, and others may even have lost their homes or suffered personal property damage due to wildfires and other natural disasters. They soon come to realize that there is no possible way they will be able to meet their Expected Family Contribution, or EFC.
Negotiating for more financial aid
In ordinary years, high school graduates miss out on billions in federal grants because they don’t fill out the FAFSA. Many families mistakenly assume they won’t qualify for financial aid and don’t even bother to apply.
This year, schools have increased their aid budgets and there are many people previously might not have qualified in the past that could still get aid. This is a buyer’s market because colleges are seeking students.
Jodi Okun, at College Financial Aid Advisors, gives parents some good advice:
If your financial situation has changed already this year or changed dramatically since you filed your FAFSA, you need to contact your financial aid office directly, provide details in writing, and submit documentation to support your new circumstances. Some circumstances which might motivate a college to reconsider its calculation include:
- Job loss or income reduction due to COVID, natural disaster, or other circumstances.
- Unexpected medical or dental expenses that were not covered by the family’s health insurance.
- Serious illness, disability, or death of a household wage earner or family member.
- Mental incapacitation of a household wage-earner.
- Loss of home due to eviction or natural disaster.
- Marital strain, separation or divorce.
- Severe reduction in the family’s income or assets.
- Pregnancy or change in marital status of the student.
- Change in the number of family or household members, or a change in the number of household members attending college.
Contact your colleges as soon as possible after completing the FAFSA so they can take this information into consideration when making financial aid award decisions.