What to know before you apply for financial aid during COVID-19

Posted at 3:48 AM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 08:16:49-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The pandemic has already prompted many students to rethink their college plans, but on the financial front, there are some tips to consider if you're looking for assistance.

The "free application for federal student aid" or FAFSA, and the CSS profile used for non-federal aid, both become available October 1 for the 2021/2022 academic year, but the financial aid forms are based on income from 2019. So, appeals and professional judgments are something you may need to consider.

"This year with so many people out of work. with so many people filing unemployment benefits on an ongoing basis. financial aid offices have been gearing up for large numbers of increases in these requests," Justin Draeger, the President of National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said.

An appeal is when you say 'I didn't qualify for as much aid as I'd hoped. Do you have additional resources you can provide me?'

A professional judgment is asking the financial aid office to add elements on your aid application to more accurately reflect your financial circumstances.

Your income is one thing that judgment can be based on.

"The other thing you might be looking at are increased expenses so you'd be asking a school to increase your cost of attendance budget which might qualify you or your family for additional financial aid because you have unexpected medical expenses or unexpected childcare expenses," Draeger said.

The procedures vary for requesting a professional judgment so you need to check with your school. Prepare to have documentation of your financial changes.

Financial aid offices are expecting to see longer wait times because of the increased requests. You don't have to apply right on October 1, but sooner is always better.