What a strange world we are all living in! Just a week and a day ago, I was writing you about credit history and how it impacts loans. I was on Spring Break (as I am assuming some of you were) and I was watching the news about the Coronavirus situation. I was looking forward to being back on campus and I had a few conference trips planned in the next few months
How quickly everything changes. I am now working from home, managing moving all our employees home and making sure they have access to work remotely, coordinating financial aid delivery to our students from our individual personal residences, supporting our students who were not prepared to move completely online with their coursework (and their faculty who were also not prepared), and doing it all with grace, patience, and love.
So, you might be wondering what does this all mean for you? Great question. This will be my first Coronavirus update post, but I am sure not my last. This is a time when I really mean it. I know you have lots of questions. Ask them. I want to help you, but I don’t know what your questions are until you ask them.
Here are some of the things I imagine you want to know right now.
- What’s happening with my financial aid? All of your financial aid offices are moving their operations off of their campuses and planning on working remotely. This means that there may be a delay for things to get “back to normal”. I know at my campus we had to institute a one-week hold on financial aid refunds because we needed the time to get people set up. If you are expecting a refund and it is delayed, give the office a week (extra) and then if you haven’t heard anything call or email them.
- What happens with my Federal Work Study (FWS) job? In situations like this, colleges and universities are given the option to pay their students for the hours they were scheduled to work if the campus is closed and no one can come in to work. This doesn’t mean that every college or university will choose this option, so you want to find out what your school plans to do. If you had a job which was paid for by institutional funds (and not FWS), then the school will decide if they want to pay you; there is no Federal guidance for this.
- What happens to my financial aid if I withdraw / if my study abroad trip is cancelled? All good questions. BE careful about withdrawing; if you leave all of your classes too early in the term you may owe some of your financial aid money back. In addition, remember the conversation we had about SAP; one things schools have to measure is the percentage of classes you earn of those you attempt. This means if you withdraw too many times you might put your future financial aid in jeopardy (of course you could appeal if this happens, but be careful!). If your study abroad program is cancelled you want to talk to your school to see if they are planning to refund your costs and not consider you enrolled or if they have some kind of distance learning program they are offering to make up the difference in credit hours for you.
- What if I need help with issues like getting Wifi, paying for food and housing, or other emergency situations? Your college or university likely has a list of emergency resources available to students. In central Florida, Valencia College has created a curated list of sources for emergency help.
- What if I lost my job / my parent(s) lost their job? If you have an emergency situation and need financial support, talk to your financial aid office. Many schools have emergency aid programs to help with small cash grants to help in urgent situations. Also a college may be able to perform a “professional judgment” and change your FAFSA information if appropriate to grant you more financial aid. Be prepared to document your situation (copies of your “lay off” notice or other information).
So if you have more questions, ask. I know there is a lot of moving pieces here, so I will try to update as I know more. Together we will get through all of this.