Amid the pandemic, college students will miss out on billions in aid

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This year, students may need extra help to make college a reality.

Because of coronavirus crisis and in the sky unemployment rateless than half of families are confident in their ability to meet higher education costs, according to lender Sallie Mae.

About 69% of parents and 55% of students entering college in the fall said Covid-19 possesses impacted their ability to pay for their studiesaccording to a separate survey of more than 6,500 high school students and their families by NitroCollege.com, a site that helps students and parents navigate college admissions and financial aid.

Already, nearly 40% of parents have taken from their child’s university fund to help cover expenses due to the economic fallout from the pandemic, according to another report from LendingTree.

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Yet fewer families applied for financial assistance.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, serves as Gateway to all federal funds, including loans, education, and grants, which are the most desirable type of assistance.

This year, the number of applications is down 2.8% from last year, with about 55,000 fewer high school students applying, according to the National College Attainment Network.

In ordinary years, high school graduates miss out on billions in federal grants because they don’t complete the FAFSA. Many families mistakenly assume that they will not qualify asking for financial aid and not even bothering to apply.

Meanwhile, tuition fees are skyrocketing. Tuition and fees plus room and board for an average four-year private college $49,870 in 2019-20 school year; in the state’s public four-year colleges, it was $21,950, according to the College Board.

This spring, families will undoubtedly need these scholarships and grants more than ever.

If you haven’t filed yet, “now is the time,” said Sallie Mae spokesperson Ashley Boucher.

A lot has changed since most students applied to college in the fall, and now “things may look a little different for a family,” Boucher said.

Parents may find that suddenly they can’t afford college next year. In that case, they “should definitely contact the school of their choice,” she said.

For families who previously filed the FAFSA but have since suffered a financial shock, it’s also possible to change their FAFSA form or seek more help from the college’s financial aid office, according to Boucher.

For example, if there are need-related issues beyond what was noted in the financial aid documents, such as increased health-related expenses or loss of employment due to of the pandemic, “contact your school’s financial aid office and explain your situation,” Boucher said.

Colleges are likely receptive to appealsshe added – especially now.

With an increasing number of incoming freshmen reconsider your options for the fall, some colleges and universities are desperate to hit their enrollment numbers for the 2020-21 academic year.

“Schools are competing to attract students, and students have more influence than ever,” Boucher said.

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