While the entire nation struggles to deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19, many students are already worried about paying for their yearly college expenses. Between job losses and the extra cost of online classes, it’s important to have a plan in place to cover this semester’s additional costs.
Apply For Financial Aid –
Students should always apply for federal financial aid as soon as they are admitted to an institution. Financial aid applications need to be completed on a yearly basis and should be finished at least two months before the semester starts. However, a FAFSA can still be filled out after classes have started; speak to the school’s financial aid office to address any concerns.
Financial aid typically considers income from the prior year to determine grant and loan eligibility. Most schools allow students to file a Professional Judgment appeal to discuss a drastic change of income. This can be a good solution for a student who has become unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the student’s income is low enough, the financial aid package may include a federal Pell grant. Almost all students are eligible for either subsidized or unsubsidized loans. These awards remain the same across all institutions that receive federal financial aid, allowing each student to choose the local school of their choice.
Choose A Local College –
Students who are struggling to cover their college expenses should seriously consider attending a local community college or state university. In-state tuition is almost always cheaper than out-of-state, often to an incredibly dramatic degree. Smaller colleges also offer lower prices. In many cases, tuition is covered entirely by available federal financial aid.
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Community colleges vary in quality, and some are not properly accredited. A student who plans to attend a community college should first make sure that the credits are eligible for transfer to other institutions. As long as the credits are transferable and the school is eligible for federal aid, it may be a good choice for reduced tuition during the first two years of a student’s academic career.
Consider A Private Student Loan –
Many banks are willing to offer private loans to students whose tuition will not be covered by federal aid. These loans are given out on an individual basis and typically take the student’s age, income, and credit into consideration.
Almost all private student loans require a cosigner. This is usually an adult family member who is prepared to help the student make regular payments for the loan. Like federal loans, many banks will defer payment on private loans until the student has completed their education.
Students should be careful to only accept private loans from trustworthy financial institutions. Banks and credit unions will typically offer better rates than other private lenders. In addition, having a family history with an institution will make it far easier to be considered for a loan.
Develop A Budget –
Budgeting is an important part of being able to pay for college. In addition to the cost of tuition, most students need to pay for food, housing, transportation, textbooks, and other educational materials. Although the nature of these costs may change during a pandemic, students still need to have enough income to allow them to live while they complete their coursework.
On-campus housing will likely be closed for the duration of COVID-19, so students should plan to live somewhere near the campus. Living with friends or family members is a good way to reduce expenses, but rooming with strangers should be avoided as long as coronavirus transmission is a risk. Students may also want to own their own vehicles to avoid the risk of using public transportation.
Students should be realistic while budgeting. Leave room in the food and necessities budget for things like masks, hand sanitizer, and other expenses that may occur because of COVID-19.
Paying for college expenses during COVID-19 isn’t particularly different than in previous years. As the pandemic progresses, keep an eye on the different types of federal and local aid that present themselves. If you need help setting up a budget or getting out of debt, reach out to Advantage CCS for free credit counseling sessions. We’re always here to help!