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How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect my college financial aid package?

Understanding how financial aid works at colleges can be daunting for students and their families, even without a pandemic.
(Murugiah for The Times)

We’re answering readers’ questions about life during the pandemic:

Will COVID-19 affect my college financial aid package?

Understanding how financial aid works at colleges and universities can be daunting for students and their families, even without a pandemic. For basic information, Federal Student Aid at studentaid.gov explains different types of aid (scholarships, loans, grants, work study, etc.) and who’s eligible for what.

The current crisis shouldn’t affect your aid package, provided you still meet eligibility requirements, according to Linda Brignoni, director of financial aid and scholarships at Cal State Northridge. But if the pandemic upended your life or your family’s life, you may need more money.

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Last school year, you might have spent weeknights in a study room with poor circulation, surrounded by friends as you crammed for exams.

Brignoni explains, in an email: “If a family’s financial situation has drastically changed from the time the student filed their financial aid application due to circumstances such as loss of employment, death or disability or marital changes, the student should contact their college. Each college has a process for reviewing special circumstances that may require submission of a form or documentation to support the review. The college will reassess the financial aid application, along with submitted documentation and on a case-by-case basis, they may be able to exercise ‘professional judgement’ to more accurately reflect the family’s current financial need. In some cases, aid may be increased.”

Many parents feel uneasy about students returning to campus this fall. Here are some things to consider before they do.

One word of warning if you or someone you know wants to take a gap year due to COVID-19 concerns or for other personal reasons:

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Students who defer college for a year and then take classes at a community college could lose financial aid. Maria Furtado, executive director of Colleges That Change Lives, advises students to make sure they know the rules at their school about the number of courses they are allowed to take and still maintain their deferral status. “Some [schools] may change your status to a transfer student, which lowers the amount of financial aid you may get,” she said.

We’re listening, L.A.: Tell us what you want to know about the most pressing questions you have at this time — how to find a job, the best ways to manage your finances, and whether it’s safe to send your kids back to school or off to college — and we’ll find the best experts to answer your questions.


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