Coronavirus is affecting different Americans in different ways. If you’re a current or past student who’s using, or used, federal student financial aid, here’s some information you may need.
- Campus Closure and Online Classes: You must stay enrolled at least half-time to “earn” all your financial aid for the current academic term. So keep participating in classes and submitting assignments, even if only through the internet. Otherwise, you may need to reimburse your school for financial aid that government rules require it to repay on your behalf.
- Federal Student Aid Webpage: The U.S Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office has begun issuing coronavirus-related student aid guidance. See it on FSA’s coronavirus webpage at https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus.
- Federal Work-Study (FWS): If you can’t work your scheduled FWS hours due to coronavirus, your employer may pay you for those hours or allow you to complete them by other means (e.g. online). Contact your financial aid office about this.
- Increased Financial Need: If a business closure or layoff causes you or a parent listed on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid to lose earnings, consult your financial aid office to discuss whether and how to seek a reduction in your Expected Family Contribution. This could lead to additional financial aid.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Job Disruption: A month during which you can’t work 30 or more hours per week in a government or nonprofit job won’t count toward the 120 qualifying months you need for PSLF. But these months needn’t be consecutive, so your PSLF “clock” will pick up where it left off when you return to that job.
- Student Loan Interest: On March 13 the President announced that he’d “waived interest on all student loans held by federal government agencies, and that will be until further notice.” So there’ll be a time period during which no interest will be charged on most or all of your federal student loans. Unfortunately, the White House and FSA haven’t provided any additional guidance by the time we published, so much about it is still unknown. Example: whether this waiver applies to Federal Perkins Loans — almost all of which are held by postsecondary schools, not federal agencies. Hopefully, FSA’s coronavirus webpage will soon have clarifications on this waiver.
- Student Loan Payment Reductions: If you can’t make your monthly federal student loan payments anymore due to employer shutdowns or layoffs, contact your loan servicer to explore your options — downsizing payments by switching repayment plans or temporarily suspending payments through deferment or forbearance.
Check FSA’s coronavirus webpage periodically for new guidance you may need in the future. We’ll do this, too, and post useful guidance as it arrives. Meanwhile, stay safe and well!