How Students Can Get Financial Help During the Coronavirus Pandemic

 May 1, 2020
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The coronavirus pandemic is threatening lives and livelihoods, with few students immune to the financial impact. And although the federal government is handing out relief checks to ease the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, dependent full-time students between the ages of 17 and 24 don’t qualify for this aid.

But there is help available. Here are eight possible scenarios that could potentially help students looking to make ends meet. See how many might apply to your own situation…

1. You might not have to worry about your student loans for now
2. You may be able to apply for more financial aid
3. Independent students could qualify for a check
4. Your school might have emergency grants or loans
5. Work-study funds should be available
6. Your college might issue a room and board refund
7. On-campus housing could still be available
8. You might get unemployment benefits

Plus: Stay up to date with Student Loan Hero’s Coronavirus Information Center

You might not have to worry about your student loans for now

As long as you’re still enrolled in school at least half time, your federal student loans (and probably most private student loans) should still be in a grace period.

Under federal rules, you don’t have to begin repayment until six months after you leave school. And this is true for grace periods of most private student loans as well.

Even better: While interest typically accrues on unsubsidized, PLUS and most other federal student loans, it is currently suspended. Until Jan. 31, 2022, your federally held student loans will be set at a 0% interest rate, meaning your balance won’t grow during this time.

Any required payments for federal student loans have also been waived during this time, although you can choose to make extra payments if you want to pay off your balance faster.

You may be able to apply for more financial aid

If your or your family’s financial circumstances have changed due to the coronavirus crisis, you might be able to apply for additional financial aid. Even if you’ve already received your award, you could try filing a financial aid appeal for additional funds.

You can also revise your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with your updated information until June 30, 2020. Make sure to do this as soon as possible if you’ll need additional funding for the 2021-2022 school year.

Note that any Direct loans or Pell grants you received for this interrupted semester won’t count toward your lifetime limits. You’ll be just as eligible for aid in future years as you would be if you hadn’t borrowed at all, and you’re under no obligation to return your Pell grant.

That said, it could be a smart idea to return any unused student loan money if you can afford to, so as to reduce your overall amount of student debt.

Independent students could qualify for a check

Although dependent students don’t qualify for an economic impact check (and their parents won’t get the extra $500 for anyone over 17), independent students over 24 could be eligible.

Many graduate students, for instance, might see a relief check hit their bank account if they filed taxes for 2018 or 2019. For faster delivery of your funds, head to the IRS website to ensure that the government has your direct deposit information. (Non-filers can enter their payment information here).

Taxpayers who make under $75,000 as single filers or under $150,000 as married filers can receive the full amount of $1,200, plus $500 for each dependent under 17. The amounts phase out at higher income levels and stop above $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for married filers.

Your school might have emergency grants or loans

If you’re in need of financial assistance, reach out to your school to see if it can help. Under the government’s recently enacted economic rescue package, schools can give out cash grants via the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) program.

Some schools have emergency funds for students in need, which they can provide as grants or loans. On April 9, the Education Department also announced a $6 billion grant to colleges, stating that schools had to distribute this money to students as cash grants.

Although each school will likely set its own policy to determine who gets funds (and some wealthier institutions have in fact turned down the relief money), it’s worth reaching out to your college or university to find out if any of this aid is available to you.

Work-study funds should be available

According to Federal Student Aid, students who qualified for work-study for this semester should get paid through the end of the year. Even if your job was interrupted by a school closure, you should be able to receive funds for your entire work-study award.

If your pay has been interrupted, reach out to your financial aid office to find out about reinstating it.

Your college might issue a room and board refund

Some colleges are issuing refunds to students, particularly to those who already paid for room and board or other on-campus services that are no longer available. While a tuition refund is unlikely, you might get money back for housing, meal plans or similar services.

Not all colleges have agreed to issue refunds, however, and some have come under legal fire for failing to do so. Students at Drexel University and the University of Miami, for instance, have filed class-action suits demanding reimbursement for tuition and fees.

Furthermore, some schools are issuing refunds in the form of cash back, while others are only offering credit that students can apply to the following semester’s expenses.

On-campus housing could still be available

Although most campuses across the country have shuttered, many administrators understand that not all students have somewhere to go. If you’re in need of a place to live, your college might have emergency housing available.

Spots are likely limited, so reach out to your housing department as soon as possible to find out about your options.

You might get unemployment benefits

According to a recent Student Loan Hero survey, 25% of students have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. An additional 24% said they still had their jobs, but their hours were cut due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you were laid off from a part- or full-time job, you might qualify for unemployment benefits. Not only could you receive benefits from your state, but you could also get an additional $600 per week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), as stipulated in the economic impact legislation.

Stay up to date with Student Loan Hero’s Coronavirus Information Center

During these unprecedented times, policies are changing from day to day and knowing what’s going on can make a big difference for your finances. To stay up to date on your options, head to Student Loan Hero’s Coronavirus Information Center.

Along with breaking news, you can find an abundance of resources to help you through this challenging time.

Published in News & Policy