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Colleges May Face Perfect Storm for Fall 2020



This may be the most challenging time ever for college administrators. Prior to the onslaught of COVID-19, many colleges were wrestling with dropping enrollments caused by two main factors: (1) the ever-increasing high cost of higher education, and (2) a trend toward non-college vocational education.

Gap Years, Waitlists Affected

Now that we’re three months into the full-blown coronavirus pandemic, the fallout that has accumulated from it has added a third threat factor — large numbers of college students have changed their plans for Fall 2020. Two leading indicators for this are students planning on taking a gap year for the 2020-2021 school year and a sharp decline in the number of FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) renewals.

The expected rise in gap years is thought to be motivated by a strong dislike for online classes, which many colleges are planning to incorporate this year, and, perhaps to a lesser degree, safety concerns about infection on campus. Surveys have revealed the magnitude of the gap year increase:

Roughly one in six high school seniors say they definitely or most likely will change their plans to attend college in the fall because of the coronavirus, according to a survey of 1,171 students conducted April 21 through 24 by the higher education market research firm Art & Science Group. Of those, 16 percent say they will take a gap year.

That compares to fewer than 3 percent of first-time first-year students at four-year institutions who previously went to college soon after graduating high school, but first took off a year or more, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles

This is one reason why this year’s college applicants who have been placed on waitlists stand a better statistical chance to be admitted, since colleges will be looking to fill as many incoming class spots as possible:

Admissions officers are advising that waitlists may become even more vital to round out their incoming class, as they anticipate under-enrollment for the Class of 2024 … the current situation may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend a college of their top choice for which they were originally not admitted. Therefore, students offered a waitlist position may want to more seriously consider when electing (or not) to select a position on the waitlist, as well as continue demonstrating their interest in a particular campus throughout the spring.

FAFSA Renewals Drop

As for students opting out of this school year for reasons of cost, data indicate a steep decline in FAFSA renewals, with most non-renewals happening among low-income students. Almost 250,000 fewer returning students from the lowest-income backgrounds have renewed their FAFSA for the 2020-21 cycle and FAFSA renewals were down 4.7 percent overall compared to last year, a decline of more than 350,000 students.

This is significant on multiple levels. First, a drop of this magnitude reduces the number of applications colleges will receive, thus potentially lowering their prized, rankings-related selectivity (the percentage of applicants they can deny). Second, and probably more concerning, the sharp decline in low-income student applications could negatively impact colleges’ diversity efforts, where socioeconomically disadvantaged students are pursued.

The decrease is even steeper among students from low-income backgrounds, the analysis found. Through April 15, the total number of renewals from students with annual family incomes of less than $25,000 was down by more than 8 percent, compared to a 4 percent decline for those with family incomes of $25,000 to $50,000, and just 1 percent for those with incomes of more than $50,000

The term “perfect storm” comes to mind. The elements of falling pre-pandemic enrollment, now greatly accelerated by COVID-19 — plus the gap year phenomenon and the FAFSA decline — add up to a scary sea of uncertainty for colleges and universities across America. The logical question that emerges is: How is higher education dealing with all this?

Some Colleges Eye Hybrid Plans

Many years ago, I worked in the publications division of a defense contractor. Their marketing tagline was “Intelligence is the best defense.” Colleges are now scrambling to gather the best intelligence they can about student plans and how to effectively incorporate safety protocols within existing academic requirements. The planning process for schools hoping to bring students back to campus for Fall 2020 has been a combination of careful calculation, intensive budget analysis and a hopeful roll of the dice.

As we enter the second half of June, with summer officially less than a week away, Fall 2020 begins to slowly but steadily come into focus, for better or worse. An Inside Higher Ed article tells us that as colleges continue to evaluate their options, “Hybrid models, longer days and shortened semesters are among the popular planning options.”

The so-called “hybrid” models comprise both in-person and online classes. The thinking here is to accommodate a range of student preferences and safety practices. One example of a forced hybrid approach operating right now is being used to wrap up spring semester. Students were sent home mid-March when the severity of COVID-19 became apparent. At that point, classes were segued to online formats and will continue through finals.

Some Fall 2020 hybrid plans now include an early start in early to mid-August, with a semester wrap-up and student departure from campus before Thanksgiving, with finals to be administered online. Plans vary, though. Here are some highlights from Inside Higher Ed:

Changing the academic calendar has been a popular option for administrators who are hoping to reopen campuses. Many institutions, including Michigan State University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and Miami University of Ohio have followed the trend set by others, such as the University of Notre Dame, for a fall semester that either ends or goes online by Thanksgiving. Sending students home early can help avoid the second wave of coronavirus cases predicted by some experts, administrators said. Most of these universities also have chosen to forgo a fall break, typically held in October, this coming school year.

Other institutions have said they will expand their normal terms over the course of the year, as a way to make classes and campuses less dense. Stanford University, for example, announced that in addition to beginning and ending the fall quarter early, the university will spread instruction over four quarters, including the summer. Only about half of undergraduates will be allowed on campus in fall. Students who are permitted on campus will switch with their peers each subsequent quarter

The rotating reduced-student-body-size approach that Stanford is planning has also been proposed at the high school level. A local high school in my area has come out with a half-and-half plan for this fall. School officials see half of the large student body reporting to school only on Mondays and Tuesdays. The other half will report only on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be reserved for online instruction for all, with no students present in school.

Planning Is Key

The level of planning and organization required to effect these types of approaches must be considerable. I also have to wonder about the increase of labor hours for faculty, who must not only adapt their classes for both in-person and online delivery but also assure bug-free (and cheat-free) computer-based assignments and exams.

As I’ve mentioned before, my prime concern regarding students who will reside on or near campus this fall is, for lack of a better term, “the human nature of college students.” Schools can have all the detailed safety guidelines in effect that they want, but enforcing them to prevent the transmission of this extremely highly infectious virus is going to be a frustrating campaign. Here are the efforts Inside Higher Ed notes as being undertaken by some schools that will come face to face with the human nature of college students:

ACHA guidelines also recommend colleges require face coverings in all residential common areas and encourage them in academic settings.

Many colleges have said they will provide training on guidelines as well as masks and hand sanitizer. Some, including Stanford, also have said they will expect students to stay local during the fall and avoid unnecessary travel.

Whether or not colleges will choose to enforce these guidelines with punitive measures still remains to be seen. Although large parties are a hallmark of some students’ experiences, colleges have largely not made announcements about what, if anything, will be done to prevent large unofficial gatherings.

Christina Paxson, the president of Brown University, told CNBC that she believes students will participate in the measures and adhere to guidelines

To President Paxon, I say, “Good luck with all that!” There has to be some kind of enforcement if these measures are to be effective.

Punitive measures to enforce social distancing may be unpopular with students. In the spring, Princeton University told students on campus that if they were caught not following social distancing guidelines they could be evicted from on-campus housing. Some students said this was unnecessarily strict and dangerous for students who had nowhere else to go

It’s not a pretty picture. The “business as usual” days for higher education (and many of us) are over and will likely not return. The COVID-19 pandemic is an asteroid that has crashed into our lives. For those of us involved with matters of college, particularly students and the parents of those students, the coming school year will be one of uncertainty, anxiety and frustration, but — hopefully — safety and good health for everyone.


By: Dave Berry
Title: Colleges May Face Perfect Storm for Fall 2020
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2020 13:21:04 +0000

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Apply Online For Student Loans



Apply Online For Student Loans

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Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid



Many families are facing new financial challenges in light of the coronavirus emergency, and College Confidential has fielded dozens of questions on this topic recently. To address those queries, we hosted a webinar on April 9 entitled “Paying for College Amid Changes Due to the Impact of COVID-19.”

During the event, moderated by Aaron Murphy, manager of learning and development with Inside Track, the following panelists offered their perspectives on the issue:

  • Denise Trusty, director of financial aid with Morehead State University
  • Laura Reisert Kalinkewicz, associate vice president of college partnerships with RaiseMe
  • Amy Nelson, director of sales at International Scholarship and Tuition Services
  • Charlie Javice, founder and CEO of Frank.

Check out the following topics that the panelists discussed, along with their views of how things may unfold amid the financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

Family Finances Changed? Contact Your Schools

If you plan to start college in the fall as a freshman — or return to school as an existing student — and your financial situation has changed since you applied for financial aid, you should contact the colleges on your list immediately. Financial aid departments can consider appeals for more money, but must base these decisions on each individual student’s situation, Trusty said.

“I know with Morehead State, where I work, we will be doing professional judgement calls on all students who say they’ve been affected,” she noted. “We will reach out to those students to see what we can do to help them maybe obtain additional funding, additional grants, scholarships, whatever they would be eligible for. We do professional judgment all the time for our students, because things happen all the time. This year will be an especially large amount of those, I’m sure, but those are up to individual schools to make that call for their students.”

In addition, she added, the Department of Education has set aside over $6 billion for additional grants and scholarships that the universities will be able to use. “Currently, I don’t know how that’s all going to play into this,” Trusty said. “So that will be up to each individual university on how they lay those out. I know it will be beneficial, I just don’t know how available that will be to each student.”

Keep in mind that schools are accustomed to reviewing financial aid appeals, and they all have processes in place for to do so. “It is really, really important to know that schools typically leave a budget from 10 percent to 20 percent or so of their financial aid dollars for what would be called a professional judgment bucket,”Javice said. “Therefore, there is additional money to be had, and it’s up to you to request it. You should approach your school as soon as you know you might need more money, and be prepared to show supporting documentation demonstrating how your finances are different from when you filed your FAFSA initially. This might require proof of a job loss, medical bills, a cut in pay or another such issue, Javice said.

In addition, if another school gave you a better financial offer, you can petition the school that gave you the lower offer for more money, Javice noted. “This typically works better for private institutions versus public state schools, given the fact that they have a little bit more discrepancy and more dollars to put to work in terms of a tuition discount,” she added. “This is solely up to the school on a case by case basis.” In some cases, the money is distributed on a first come, first serve timeline, so don’t wait if you know you need more aid.

Although financial aid can be a stressful topic, try not to be emotional when you request more money, Javice added. You’ll get a lot further by having organized documentation to present than you would by getting angry or upset, she noted.

Consider Outside Scholarships

The coronavirus situation has changed plans not only for incoming freshmen, but also for current college students, Nelson said. “Organizations are stepping up and trying to find ways to provide additional scholarship opportunities this year,” she noted. Students should be proactive in seeking those options.

Raise Me is offering new micro-scholarships for students who are seeking additional funding sources, Kalinkewicz said. In addition, she encourages students to ask colleges for more time to make decisions, even if the school hasn’t extended its deposit process. You can always try and request additional time to get your financial aid package right, she noted.

Finding more money is not relegated to younger students, Javice added. “Adult learners comprise the biggest group of people actually going to college today,” she noted. It’s very common for people to be seeking new types of skills and going back to college to gain additional degrees. Financial aid is available to adult learners, and they may even get aid to pay such costs as rent, she added. In addition, they can seek outside scholarships or employer-matching funds to pay for their educations.

Not Necessarily Too Late to File FAFSA

Students who didn’t file a FAFSA already should do that as soon as possible so you can get access to financial aid funds, Javice said. Federal FAFSA deadlines are usually in June, but states make their own deadlines for state aid. Some states, such as New Jersey, have moved their deadlines back for this year, so check to make sure you stay on top of your deadlines.

And if you file for financial aid and you decide you don’t want it, you can always decline the financial offer or portions of that offer, Nelson said. Your best bet is to apply so you can take what you need and decline any amounts you don’t need. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should apply anyway because you could be surprised at what you’re offered. “You really need to complete that [FAFSA] process every year,” Nelson said. “The process is very easy, and jobs can come and go. It’s your safety net and you want to make sure you’ve completed it. It makes it a whole lot easier when situations like this arise.”

Some colleges also have supplemental applications to fill out for particular types of aid, so always reach out to your financial aid office for information on which documentation you should be completing, Kalinkewicz said.

Could Families — Not Schools — Be in the Driver’s Seat?

Because many merit scholarships are based on test scores and GPAs, some high school juniors are concerned that they won’t have access to those in the coming year. With test dates being canceled and grades moving to pass/fail, they fear they won’t meet the criteria to earn such scholarships.

“It’s clear to me that colleges and universities know the extraordinary circumstances we’re under,” Nelson said. “All schools are leaning forward and considering all options as the situation develops. I would continue to encourage juniors to stay engaged and stay informed.” You should also watch to see what happens with test dates, she said. The ACT and SAT dates could change, and some schools may forego the need for a test score altogether, she added.

In addition, some merit scholarships that have traditionally been based on test scores may become test optional, Kalinkewicz noted.

Keep in mind that in many cases, families are in the driver’s seat rather than having the colleges be in charge, Javice said. Some schools have lost revenue and are very eager for students right now, “so if you are scared because you thought you could never get into a specific school from an admission criteria standpoint, this is your year to stretch, this is your year to think about the schools that are your reach category and go for it, because schools need the money and need the students. So the power that used to be in an admissions office is in you, the student or the family’s hands,” she said.

She also advises juniors to request application waivers from schools to save the $50 to $100 or so per application that they would normally pay. The schools may say no, but it won’t hurt to ask, she advised. “Persistence is key when dealing with schools,” Javice noted.

Federal Student Loans Payment Suspended

As many families are aware, payments on federal student loans are automatically suspended from March 13 through September 30, 2020 thanks to the government’s CARES Act. This is essential to keep in mind, particularly for families that have multiple children in various stages of the college process.

“You will stop paying your loans and you will have zero interest from now until September 30, and that’s important for parents to know,” Nelson said regarding existing federal student loans. “If you had an auto draft, the auto draft has been shut off and will not continue. You can, however, continue to make those payments if you’d like, and any interest you had before March 13, once that interest is paid up, all your payments will go directly toward your principal.” She advises families with federally-backed loans to check with their loan servicing agents, because they have a lot of information for both parent and student borrowers on how the CARES Act will impact payments for the next six months.

Student Job Gone? Colleges Might Help

For students who expect to earn money via part-time or full-time work to pay for college, but can’t do so due to the coronavirus, colleges may have resources to help. “There are many colleges and universities that have put together emergency grants for students to cover expenses that they were maybe not expecting because of COVID-19,” Nelson said. “They are making accommodations to try and make up for that lost income for students.”

Trusty said Morehead State is continuing to pay students who were on federal work-study. “If they had a job, we are still paying them right now as if they were working, although they are not. In the summer, those funds will be flipped over to emergency grant funds. So we will make sure that our students are covered and can live as if they were employed with the work-study position.”

Some colleges have even made remote work available to students, Kalinkewicz added. Therefore, contact your financial aid office to determine if any accommodations are available to make up for lost student income whenever possible.

Consider Other Options to Save

If you are seeking ways to save money on college, you should also consider other resources, whether that means less expensive colleges, in-state options or potentially transferring down the road, Janice said. You can also save money by taking classes at a community college to pay a lower cost for your credits that can be transferred to a four-year college later.

“If you have that target institution in mind — maybe you’ve already been admitted there but your family has determined a year of community college will really help stretch things further — work on articulation agreements or a plan so you are taking the right classes that actually have the ability to transfer toward the degree you want at your target institution, not necessarily just as credit,” Kalinkewicz said.

In addition, many colleges offer merit aid for transfer students, she added. So always look for every potential financial aid and scholarship resource to best maximize your package and allow your dollars to stretch as far as possible.

Resource: To review the entire hour-long webinar, you can watch the replay here.

Share Your Thoughts

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!

By: Torrey Kim
Title: Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 10 Apr 2020 15:22:20 +0000

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