Notes from call on Financial Aid and COVID-19

Posted by Summer Search on March 24, 2020

[Thank you to Kaitlin Irvine of Summer Search for these notes from a call on March 17. She wanted me to include a disclaimer that she may have missed something and this is only her understanding of the information communicated, not actual gospel.  NASFAA is the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.]

In case it’s helpful, here’s my notes from the NASFAA call yesterday afternoon – not as helpful to me as I’d wanted it to be but I’m not a financial aid administrator. Towards the end, some semi-helpful info on work study. Big takeaway overall was that there are tons of rules that are mandated by law connected to finaid, especially “Title IV Funds” (AKA Pell, SEOG) so colleges hands are a bit tied on figuring that stuff out until Congress passes legislation. Bills were introduced in both the house and senate Friday, March 13, so we should see some movement but it won’t be immediate. Also, for student loan interest being put on pause – still nothing official from DOE on that, but it was mentioned in Trump’s address. So more to come there.


State of Affairs – American College Health Association

  • Uncharted waters dealing with this pandemic. Nothing like this since 1918 Spanish influenza.
  • What this is not: no high fatality rate (Ebola, etc.)
  • fatality rate (for college-aged students, <.02%; for elderly 14-16%)
  • Pace by which happening: 4000+ cases, 75 deaths. When do measures we put in place start to level off?
  • Right now: looking at extreme social isolation, campuses moving to remote learning. HSs easier to fully shut down than a campus. Some students still on campuses, transitional housing.
    • With that, host of issues: by moving students off campus, hopefully prevent spread but start running into food and housing insecurity, safe learning environments, technology access. Taking students out of an environment where had mental health supports, isolation leads to anxiety and depression. Continuity of care for folks with special needs.
    • Study abroad programs: most cancelled.
    • Need to keep eye on anti discrimination concerns
    • Faculty and staff: no one is immune to anxiety – must take care of ourselves and others.
  • Balancing information sharing and not fatiguing folks with information, too.
  • Think restrictions will be in place into summer. Possibility that there will be continued virtual learning – should plan for potential disruption beyond May. Fall is the big question mark right now. *Organizing study abroad will be different*
  • We’re going to see social distancing become more extreme and then once flattens, concern around reinfection. There will be life after this with return to campuses, work, etc.
  • Seasonality and reinfection: evidence is showing that this is a novel pathogen, qualities we don’t know. South America and Australia have growing cases in warmer climates. Reinfection will be a big issue.
  • Dealing with lots of ambiguity – feel confident that DOE is hearing finaid admins and responding. NASFAA will keep everyone posted

Department of Education Guidance

  • Issued March 5 – talked about different scenarios (ex: student was in study abroad right now, Student quarantined and missed classes, Campus moves online, Campus closes and stops all classes, Foreign school suspends
  • Proposed Congressional Legislation
  • DOE has to get congressional approval to change – congress is working on some legislation
  • Friday: Senate and House intro’d support students bills
  • $1.2 B in emergency grants to be able to give students up to $1500 for COVID-19 related costs
  • Would give schools more wiggle room –
  • Hopefully will make moves in the next week or two.
  • Includes:
    • Education Preparedness and Support Grants Provides funding to institutions of higher education impacted by qualifying emergencies.
    • Emergency Financial Aid for Students Helps address basic needs created by unexpected college closures and COVID-19 related disruptions
    • R2T4 Relief Exempts students from paying back grants and loans through R2T4 process
    • Foreign Education Allows foreign institutions serving American students to provide distance education

Presidential Announcement

  • Relief for student loan borrowers – waive interest from March 13 onward – nothing written by the DOE on this yet, but was announced by Trump Friday.
  • Forbearance would be interest free

NASFAA Resource Page

  • If institutions are prorating R&B, online classes, etc, what adjustments do campuses have to make? DOE releasing more guidance on this. If institution refunds or provides a waiver of any institutional charges, DOE will not require finaid to modify COA. No need to make any changes to student finaid award.
    • If providing refunds: will likely create credit balances. DOE has not yet waived rules for Title IV (Pell, SEOG, etc) credit balances (finaid offices should be connecting with Business Office)
  • Work study:
    • If can’t work: should be paid by their job regardless of working the hours or now – they will have to fill out time sheets for the hours they would have worked.
    • Students can work remotely if that is possible – schools can set students up to work remotely but they can still pay students their work study amounts for not working.
    • How much should they be paid? Will require some institutional discretion. According to DOE, student can be paid for hours were scheduled to work for time not on campus.
  • Satisfactory Academic Progress:
    • With current proposed legislation, would waive SAP for this semester due to COVID 19 interruption.
  • Any verification leniency?
  • Nothing yet, but probably more to come
  • Presidents announcement on loan interest – does include PLUS loans too. But again, nothing from DOE in writing on that yet.

More in "New Resources"

Stay Current in Philly's Higher Education and Nonprofit Sector

We compile a weekly email with local events, resources, national conferences, calls for proposals, grant, volunteer and job opportunities in the higher education and nonprofit sectors.