During and After College: The Worst Employment Market Since the Great Depression, What Can You Do?

If you’re a soon-to-be or current college student, or if you’re a recent graduate, nobody thought you’d be facing the job market you’re now facing before coronavirus.

The unemployment rate was just 3.5% in February. In March and April it skyrocketed to 14.7%. It’ll likely be even higher when May’s rate is published. So it’s no-surprise if you’re having trouble finding a job, or if a previous job offer’s been rescinded.

The what should you do now?

Summer Employment

Keep looking for summer jobs, but be smart. We’ve noted before that some fast food restaurants can be good places to work. They, and certain other employers, provide benefits to help employees pay for college.

Take Taco Bell. It needs 30,000 summer employees. And it’s Live Más program offers scholarships, tuition reimbursements, free academic coaching, and free financial advising to help you make your college money stretch further.

Permanent Jobs

Right now you may not be able to find a job that’ll start you on the career path you’ve wanted. But you’ve got to pay for food and shelter and, if you borrowed for college, you’re monthly payments will start in the next 6 – 8 months.

So it’s essential to be creative, flexible, patient, and persistent in job searching. Ask your college and its placement office to help you network with alumni and other well-placed professionals. And check out employers that provide essential services — not just in emergency responses and health care — but also in engineering, science, technology, utilities, etc.

You don’t have a degree that makes such organizations obvious choices? That’s OK. They need accountants, customer service staff, and other “layperson” workers, too.

Also think about jobs you can do from home, using the internet and telecommunications technology that’s probably second nature to you but not to many older job applicants.

Unemployment Benefits

These are a joint federal-state partnership for workers who involuntarily lose their jobs and are seeking new employment.

In normal times, many students and new graduates wouldn’t qualify for unemployment benefits because about half the states require applicants to have recently worked hours and earned amounts that exceed those of part-time employees. States also offer different weekly benefit amounts for different numbers of weeks.

However, the March 27 CARES Act temporarily broadened unemployment benefit eligibility, extended time periods, an increased benefit amounts for many Americans.

Use the U.S. Labor Department’s CareerOneStop website to research and apply for unemployment benefits in your state. And if you’re eligible, apply right away. States are often slow to process and pay them, and the temporary CARES Act enhancements expire July 31.

Follow the College Affordability Solutions website for weekly articles about financial strategies to use before, during, and after college.

During and After College: Check Out SNAP If You Can’t Afford Nutritious, Safe Food

Times are tough. Summer jobs for currently enrolled students are hard to find, and their fall financial aid and student loans are at least 90 days away. For this spring’s graduates, in just three months we’ve gone from the best to worst job market in years. All this makes it difficult to afford a truly basic necessity: food!

Many colleges and universities operate food banks and other services to help their students fulfill this essential need. But if such services can’t do enough for you, or if you’re no longer in school, you may also be eligible for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

What SNAP Is

SNAP a joint federal-state program designed to help financially needy Americans buy healthy, nutritious food with food stamps worth up to $194 per month if you’re single and don’t have children; as much as $646 per month for a family of four.

You may use these stamps at the grocery to buy bread, cereal, dairy products, fish, fruit, meat, poultry, and snack foods. But you can’t use them for beer, food prepared for immediate consumption, liquor, tobacco products, or wine.

SNAP Eligibility

To get SNAP’s food stamps, the federal government requires you to:

  • Register for work;
  • Participate in employment or training programs if your state requires you to do so;
  • Accept employment if it’s offered to you; and
  • Not voluntarily quit your job or reduce your work hours.

To get food stamps for more than three months, you must be working or participating in a work program for 20 or more hours per week if you’re able-bodied and have no dependents.

SNAP Websites

More information on SNAP is available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SNAP website. State governments administer SNAP, and some have extra SNAP eligibility requirements. To find out about these, and to learn how and where you can apply for SNAP, link to your state’s SNAP website.

Using SNAP is OK

Most students and recent graduates never even consider SNAP. But these are extraordinary times, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to utilize food stamps. After all, you’re not alone. Over 36 million Americans are unemployed. And even before coronavirus, Temple University’s HOPE Center surveys of over 330,000 students at more than 440 colleges and universities found that 39% of those students had suffered food insecurity — i.e. limited or uncertain access to nutritious, safe food; or the inability to get such food in a socially acceptable and legal manner — during the month before completing their surveys.

Stay safe! Stay healthy! And keep yourself well-nourished so you have the energy to pursue your degree and seek employment. If SNAP can help you do that, apply for it!

Need help making your limited financial resources stretch to cover all your basic needs? Let College Affordability Solutions advise you on managing your money. There’s no charge. Contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com.

During College: What to Do if Your Financial Aid Eligibility is Jeopardized Because You’re Not Making Satisfactory Academic Progress

College wasn’t easy this spring. Closed campuses. Remote learning. Scrambling for off-campus housing or moving home. Job losses. Illness. Death. The anxiety and depression accompanying social distancing. All this can undermine academic performance.

So once your spring grades are final, we hope you’re not notified that you’ve lost financial aid eligibility because you’re not making Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). But if you are, here’s what you need to know . . .

What Is SAP?

Washington requires postsecondary schools to measure student aid recipients against certain criteria so taxpayers don’t “throw good money after bad” by funding students not able or hardworking enough to graduate. Most states and colleges apply these criteria to their aid programs.

SAP is checked when each academic term finishes in programs of study lasting a year or less. In longer programs, it’s usually assessed when each academic year ends.

For SAP you get evaluated against three criteria:

  1. Quality: Your GPA must be at least a “C” or it’s equivalent;
  2. Quantity: For the clock or credit hours you attempted, you must complete enough to be on pace to graduate within the maximum time frame described below; and
  3. Maximum Timeframe: You must graduate within 150% of your program’s published length in clock or credit hours.

Not Making SAP?

If you’re not making SAP, your school may:

Immediately cut you off from additional financial aid;

  • If your program lasts less than a year, give you a “Financial Aid Warning” under which you’ll become ineligible for aid after one more academic term unless you’re making SAP at that term’s end; or
  • If you’ve finished your Financial Aid Warning term without making SAP, or if you’re program lasts a year or more, put you on “Financial Aid Probation” during which you’re not eligible for aid or loans unless you successfully appeal.

How To Appeal?

Your appeal goes in writing to your financial aid office. Explain how one or more of three situations — illness or injury to you, a relative’s death, or some other special circumstance (which could certainly be coronavirus-related) — interfered with your ability to make SAP. Explain, too, what’s changed so you can reestablish SAP by the next time your school measures it.

Be honest. Be thorough. Don’t omit relevant details. Discuss how your situation affected your academic performance. Submit supporting documentation if necessary to confirm anything in your appeal.

When To Appeal?

Don’t dawdle in composing or submitting your appeal. Processing them is labor-intensive and time-consuming, and coronavirus has caused layoffs or vacancies in many aid offices, limiting their time to review SAP appeals. Therefore, a decision may take several weeks.

After You Appeal?

If your appeal’s granted, you may be put on an academic plan requiring you to meet certain requirements by certain dates. Meet those requirements and you’ll keep getting aid.

If your appeal’s denied, you’ll get no more aid from your school until you get back into compliance with it’s SAP criteria. So, again, take this very seriously!

Are you struggling with your Satisfactory Academic Progress appeal? College Affordability Solutions will advise you on it at no charge. Contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com.

After College: Make Your Voice Heard on a Hot Issue — Student Loan Forgiveness!

If you’re one of 27.7 million Americans who currently owe on federal student loans, you may like the idea of student loan forgiveness. But many others don’t, so you need to offer persuasive reasons for doing it.

This is a hot issue right now. House Democrats want to forgive $30,000 per borrower, and Senate Democrats tried to include a $10,000 per borrower student loan forgiveness program in the CARES Act. But Republicans vigorously opposed these ideas so they’ve not been implemented.

That means this’ll still be an issue in this fall’s political campaigns. Joe Biden calls for forgiving all undergraduate federal student loan debt related to public 2 and 4-year school tuition for borrowers earning less than $125,000 a year. Donald Trump sayshe wants to forgive whatever undergraduate and graduate college debt that remains after 15 and 30 years of payments, respectively. But the Trump plan is fake, because virtually 100% of student loan debts are fully repaid within those timespans.

If student loan forgiveness would help you, now or in the next few years, let your congressional representatives know it. Here are some arguments to make:

  • It’ll provide much needed economic stimulus: Federal Reserve economists predict 47 million lost jobs due to coronavirus, causing a 32% unemployment rate by June 30 — worse than that of the Great Depression. Lots of consumer spending is going to be needed to put these people back to work, and forgiving tens of thousands in student loan debt for more almost 28 million Americans will free up plenty of money for such spending.
  • It’s the fair thing to do: A recent Student Loan Hero survey found that 46% of Americans feel mass forgiveness would be unfair to students who’ve repaid their college debts. Not surprisingly, 51% of millennials (ages 24 – 39) support student loan forgiveness but only 31% of baby boomers (ages 56 – 74) do. Of course, millennials owe much more than previous generations, largely because their college costs were the highest ever as state taxpayers’ support for higher education fell 50% from 1981 to 2019. Small wonder one baby boomer confesses that his total college expenses in the 1970s were about 10% of what millennials paid in the 21st century.
  • It doesn’t reward the most affluent: Professionals like doctors and lawyers average the highest incomes (and $145,000 to $246,000 in student loan debt). As noted, however, the Biden plan would deny them forgiveness once their incomes reach $125,000, and even the most generous of the congressional Democrats’ plans would eliminate only $30,000 of their six-figure debts.
  • Taxpayers won’t pay off loans you borrowed voluntarily: First, Federal Direct Loans account for 82% of outstanding federal college loan debt and Washington, which made those loans, doesn’t actually pay itself anything to forgive them, it just stops collecting them. Second, as indicated by the college cost data reported above, it’s not like you borrowed voluntarily.

One way to make college more affordable is to influence government policies governing your student debt. So exercise your constitutional right to “lobby” your U.S. Representative and Senators now, and be sure to vote for candidates who support student loan forgiveness in November!

Struggling to pay your student loan debt? Let College Affordability Solutions use its 42 years of experience in working with such debt help you out. Contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com three for free consultations.