COVID-19 Support Resources

uAspire is working to ensure students, families, and practitioners have accurate and timely information to navigate financial aid and higher education systems during the COVID-19 crisis. We are regularly updating these resources on key questions and procedures regarding financial aid and the impact of COVID-19. This is a changing environment based upon policy and guidance shifts. This information is accurate as of August 7, 2020.

FAQ

Yes, the recent CARES Act unlocked additional funds that colleges can provide to students. Students in need should reach out to their college's financial aid office to inquire about emergency aid. Colleges have received guidance on how to distribute this money to students and as of 5/1/20 we heard from NASFAA that colleges are starting to receive these funds. It is important that a student has filed their FAFSA for colleges to confirm their eligibility for these funds. 

As of 4/21/2020, the Department of Education has provided guidance that emergency aid funded through the CARES Act can only be received by students eligible for Title IV aid. This means that DACA/TPS and/or undocumented students are not eligible to receive these funds.

One additional piece of advice we can offer these students is to contact their college to inquire about any institutional emergency funds which may have different eligibility requirements. Eligibility, process, and availability will differ by college.

Students should reach out to their colleges to find out how to access these funds. The distribution of emergency aid funds to students will vary per college. In order to receive these funds students may need to fill out an application and/or have a completed FAFSA with their college. Colleges are allowed to use a variety of methods including checks, electronic transfer payments, debit cards, and payment apps. The emergency aid provided to the student (from the CARES Act funding) must go directly to the student, and colleges are not allowed to subtract any balances owed or fees during distribution.

Student loan payments are suspended through 9/30/20, and those months will still count toward loan forgiveness—both income-driven repayment programs and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Interest will not accrue during this time period. Students do not need to do anything on their end. The Department of Education will be making the necessary changes. Students will receive additional information about how all of this works from their student loan servicer. Unfortunately, private student loans, FFEL loans owned by commercial lenders, and Perkins Loans owned by the institution are not eligible for this benefit. 

Institutional refund policies, such as refunding room and board costs, are at the discretion of the institution. Some colleges have been releasing plans around refunding meals/housing.

We have seen general messaging that because colleges are offering online and virtual classrooms they are not considering tuition refunds.

For both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 award years the Department of Education has issued guidance around a few different aspects of verification:

The Department of Education has suspended the requirements that a student must be in person or submit notarized documents when going through the identity and statement of educational purpose verification process. They have said these documents can be submitted in person or electronically, via email, through uploading photos, or through the school’s portal. How these are submitted will depend on the school and the resource they have available. The Department has also given guidance that colleges can accept expired forms of identification as long as they expired after March 1, 2020. 

Additionally, for household size and number in college verification forms the Department of Education has waived the need for a parent signature (if they are unavailable). 

All guidance listed above is in effect until June 30, 2020.

For the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 award years the Department of Education has provided leniency in the type of documentation needed to prove high school completion status. This guidance is in effect until the end of December 2020.

The Department of Education will allow Federal Work-Study recipients to receive their wages through the end of the academic year even if they cannot continue working. Students in this situation must call the financial aid office and ask for the reinstatement of their work study funds. Colleges are not required to pay work-study students, so this policy may vary per college.

If students and families experience changes to their financial circumstances they should be encouraged to appeal to the college(s) as soon as possible. Colleges have the ability to use professional judgment to adjust the information on the FAFSA, which could impact their EFC and grant eligibility. If a student needs to appeal they should gather documents that show the change in financial circumstances such as letters stating benefit eligibility, pay stubs, layoff or furlough documentation, etc. Each college may have a unique process they will need to go through in order to document the shifts and each college will make its own determination.

Yes, their appeal process may consider instances related to COVID-19. The final decision on whether a SAP appeal will be accepted is determined by the college.

Even if they have a job or are a student, young adults who still live at home will not get a check if they can be claimed as a dependent on anyone else's tax return (whether or not they are actually claimed as a dependent on someone's return). The IRS will look at the 2019 or 2018 tax return to determine if someone could claim the student as a dependent.

If a student withdraws due to the COVID-19 emergency, the CARES Act states that they are not required to return federal student aid to the institution, and the institution is not required to return funding to the federal government. The Department of Ed of will cancel the Direct loans disbursed to the student and parent for the period of enrollment if they withdraw. Students who need to withdraw should talk with their financial aid office to confirm any paperwork the college needs is filed.

IRS offices have started to process tax transcripts requests and accept "Get Transcript by Mail" requests again. If you need a tax transcript or a Verification of Non-filing Letter from the IRS we recommend going to https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript and requesting the necessary documents.

Resources

For Students and Families

FAFSA Checklist and Financial Aid Timeline

How to Appeal a Financial Aid Offer

Sample Appeal Letter for COVID-19 Related Situations

Appeal Letter Templates (SwiftStudent)

Student Scripts for Calling Colleges for COVID-19 Related Situations

Financial Aid Offer Review Tool (Consumer Finance Protection Bureau)

Next Steps After the Financial Aid Offer

Video Resources to Support Students

How to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) on your FAFSA

How to retrieve your Student Aid Report (SAR)

How to add a college on your FAFSA after it has been submitted

How to create an IRS Account
An IRS account must be created in order to download a tax transcript

How to Download a Tax Transcript
How to download an IRS Tax Transcript AFTER creating an IRS account

IDOC Overview
Slides and videos about the Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC) process from the College Board

For Policymakers

Student-Centered Solutions Needed During COVID-19

uAspire Calls on Congress for Additional COVID-19 Relief for College Students

Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership Letter to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education

uAspire Calls on Congress: 12 Ways to Support College Students in Next COVID Relief Package

Websites

COVID-19 and the CARES Act

Federal Student Aid webpage dedicated to questions related to COVID-19 and its impact on education

The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) resources for student loan borrowers

National College Attainment Network (NCAN)

National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) information on emergency aid

Financial Aid

Federal Student Aid

FAFSA demo for counselors who want to explore and practice the form

FinAid 

Edvisors  

College Board information on CSS Profile and applying for institutional funds