By Clay Zachry, CFP®

Students, parents, and faculty nationwide will have to redefine their image of what the typical “college experience” will look like this fall, as many classes go remote and off-campus for the safety of everyone due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 and High Education: An Overview

According to a poll by market research firm Art & Science Group, more than half of U.S. high school seniors have a parent or guardian who has lost a job, been laid off, or has been furloughed.  More than a quarter of these students say their first-choice school may no longer be affordable. Students are either dropping out, deferring and taking a gap year, or deciding not to go to college altogether.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) activity is showing this trend. Overall FAFSA renewals are off about 5 percent, meaning more than 350,000 students did not fill out the federal form, according to National College Attainment Network (NCAN) data.

Without student tuition to rely on, hundreds of schools have announced hiring freezes. Institutions have cut pay and have laid off staff and contractors. Many colleges have extended decision day for incoming freshmen to June 1 or later. Colleges that don’t have big endowments to fall back on are struggling to survive.

Financial Options for Students During this Pandemic

There are financial options available for students and their parents during this stressful time. While the situation around COVID-19 changes every day, there are steps you can take now to improve your financial situation:

  • Ask your college about emergency grants. The CARES Act states that half of the roughly $12 billion in federal funding earmarked for institutions of higher education needs to go to enrolled students in the form of emergency grants.  Determine if you meet the eligibility requirements, find out if you need to complete FASFA, and see if your college requires an application or any other action from you.  If you’re waiting on an emergency financial aid grant, it might be because your is college is still waiting on the funds.  Ineligible students, such as undocumented students and international students, have other options to get emergency funding from schools or from private donors
  • Appeal an aid award. With a decrease in enrollment, more colleges may be willing to offer more financial aid and scholarship money upon appeal.
  • Be cautious about borrowing too much.
  • Understand tuition refund policies in case you decide to opt out this school year.
  • Be flexible. Stay up to date with changes your college is implementing for the fall semester; be ready and willing to move to a Plan B or Plan C if necessary.

The Importance of a Financial Advisor When College Planning

The pandemic has made planning for higher education even more difficult for parents and students. Reach out Harris to Financial Advisors today for strategic guidance and college planning resources. Our team will help bring clarity to the college planning process, for the fall semester and beyond.