By: Belinda Gonzalez-Leon, Ed. D., MBA
Ph: (305) 494-9389
If your parent(s) has lost their job or had their work hours reduced, you need to call the college financial aid office NOW. If your family business is losing money or your parent(s) cannot work until businesses open again, you need to call the college financial aid office NOW.
If your sibling will stay in college an extra semester or two next year or did not get a refund after having to leave the college dorm, you need to call the college financial aid office NOW. If your family is enduring any type of money or health related emergency issues due to the COVID-19 crisis, you need to call the college financial aid office NOW.
Why? Because you need more money for college, and you want to put that request in as soon as possible. Colleges are overwhelmed with phone calls and emails so start trying to connect with them NOW. Which college you decide to attend in fall may change completely based on the answer you get from the financial aid office.
The amount of financial aid you are awarded depends on the college’s cost of attendance subtracted by the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is determined by your family assets (such as savings or investment accounts); how much income your family earns; the number of people in your family; and how many children in the family are in college. Debt is a minor factor because the strongest determinant is income followed by savings. Therefore, if your family has lost income or is using up its savings then your EFC has changed, and you have a greater need for financial aid.
Remember that grants and scholarships are free money. They are awarded because you met some type of criteria- it could be academic, financial, or activity related like a sport or hobby. Grants are available at a federal, state, or local level. Scholarships come from a variety of sources including private organizations or the college itself. In Florida, the state has available a scholarship called Bright Futures.
You may be offered loans for costs not covered by gifted money. Loans are available to students or their parents. Loans must be paid back, and they accumulate interest charges. Some loans charge interest immediately and others defer interest until you graduate. These loans are not mandatory, and you can indicate on your financial aid award letter whether you accept it or not.
Some students may qualify for College Work Study (CWS). This is a part-time job on campus that will pay the student to help offset college expenses. This money is paid directly to the student as a wage and does not have to be used for any specific college bill. The benefit of college work study jobs is that the income generated by the student is not counted as money available to pay for tuition when the following year’s EFC is calculated. Non-CWS jobs’ income will count in EFC calculations.
The COVID-19 crisis has caused massive changes across the country. It will cause changes to financial aid packages awarded across all colleges. Your situation may or may not warrant more financial aid. Your college may or may not have the funds available to give you. However, you lose nothing in asking for trying. Contact the college, explain your situation, emphasis how much you want to attend this particular college, and wait for an answer. The worse they can do is say no.