2020 has been a tough year for everyone and its even more so for college students. College campuses across the world have closed doors and students were asked to leave their college dorms. Now with all these changes, many students have moved back in with their parents while some out-of-state students and many international students have been left scrambling for housing and to meet their food and other expenses. So what are the options currently available for students to continue with college?
There are a few important things college students can do to avoid disruption with college studies. But before that you need to ensure you have the basic life necessities such as money for housing and food before you can make plans for your college. There is governmental help and help from your college in this area which I’ll discuss further in this post. Once your basic necessities are sorted out, try to make online learning a part of your daily routine. Students are finding many of their college professors to be more accessible online during these times. If your college is not offering any online classes, you still have other avenues to continue college studies without disruption by taking other credit-eligible courses online and so on. Taking such an approach to college will ensure that you get to graduate on time and without much disruption in your college studies.
After asking students to leave their dorms and closing off the college campuses, most colleges in the US refunded the dorm rentals and meal plans for students but did not make any concessions for college tuition. If your college or university has not refunded your unused room and meal plan expenses, be sure to ask for it immediately and put in your request in writing. Some colleges have moved classes completely online whereas others are considering closing down for the upcoming semester.
Though the primary stimulus money excludes students in the 17 to 24 age group who are claimed as dependents, there are other avenues whereby college students can get financial assistance.
FINANCIAL HELP FROM COLLEGE/ GOVT
To help students during these pandemic times, the federal government has instituted policies to relieve students of their student loan payments in the coming months. Many colleges have also been provided funds to help students with off-campus housing and food expenses.
Stimulus/ College/ govt help with housing, food and tuition assistance
A Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund of $6.28 billion (as part of the CARES Act) has been provided to colleges in the US to distribute to students who are affected by the pandemic. Many students’ families are undergoing economic hardships and you might be able to even get tuition assistance by contacting your college financial aid office.
Colleges are also doing their level best to provide food to students in need and you can specifically request food vouchers and free meal plans and supplies. So do everything possible to get as much help as you can by clearly documenting your situation for receiving financial help.
Student loans assistance
For students who graduated and are working, the federal government has stated that employers should not garnish salaries to pay for student loan debt. Frontline health workers may soon have their student loans forgiven as per a new bill introduced by NY Republican Carolyn Maloney.
For students in the health profession, many are being provided with resources to graduate early from college. In the San Francisco Bay area, anonymous donors have wiped out the student loan debt of 400 college students as part of a Students Rising Above program. These are students who have overcome many critical challenges in their drive to complete college and a number of these students are also in the healthcare field.
There are many students who have taken private student loans which as not eligible for loan payments assistance as part of the Coronavirus relief act. To help such students with their loans, many states have joined together and have reached an agreement with private lenders to hold off all loan payments for 90 days with no negative credit reporting for non-payment, no late payment fees and also for getting students enrolled in other debt-assistance programs.
To get this assistance, contact your private lender and ask about forbearance on your loan payments. Work with them and provide the required documentation to get the process started for you.
Also, those college graduates or previous college students who are receiving the federal stimulus payments, it is good to note that those payments will not be used to pay for any defaulted student loans.
If you are able to stay at home with your parents, that’s definitely the best option at this time. Your entire housing and food will be covered and you will be able to smoothly continue with your college studies online.
Or if you fall under the category of vulnerable students such as homeless students or international students, some colleges would allow you to continue to stay on-campus during the pandemic. Find out if this is an option at your college by clearly stating your circumstances. This may not always be possible but is definitely worth a try.
If the above is not possible, try to join as a roommate with one of your college friends in their off-campus housing. Many large off-campus housing providers are coming together to ease the burden on students by waiving late payment fees and avoiding eviction in these pandemic times. The student renters are also being sent many basic home maintenance videos on simple things as how to change light bulbs or fix simple things at home in an effort to maintain social distancing and lockdowns.
College Online classes
If your college has started online classes, take full advantage of it and attend your online classes regularly. Many college staff members and professors are available to help and are doing everything in their power to make this transition to online learning easier on students. So be sure to ask for help and do not hesitate to request help when you run into issues.
Other online MOOC for credits
If your college has not moved completely online, you can still work with your college for advice on how to continue with your studies. Also talk to other students online or on the phone so everyone stays committed to their college studies.
In case you are seriously interested in more learning beyond what your college has to currently offer, consider taking some MOOC courses on Coursera, Edx, FutureLearn or Udacity. Some of the courses tend to offer ACE-eligible accredited college credits as well. Saylor Academy is another great free source for college courses and credits online.
College closure and current college transcript
If your college is totally closed and you are unsure when the classes will resume online, one good action to take is requesting your college for your student transcript. Your current student transcript will give you a clear indication as to how far along you are with your college completion. This will also inform you as to which new courses will help you to continue earning college credits for meeting your graduation requirements.
Join a flexible college/ Credit bank report
If you feel that your current college situation is not working out, you can consider re-enrolling into one of our recommended flexible colleges. If you are unsure, another option is to order a OneTranscript or Credit Bank report at one of the flexible colleges. That will help you to make progress with your college as the flexible colleges have numerous distance learning and online learning options.
These colleges will also be able to transfer in all your college credits from your previous college totally free of cost. So you will not lose any time or money spent and all your earlier college learning will be reflected in your new student transcript at the flexible college.
STAY SAFE & HEALTHY, LEARN COOKING
Please continue to stay safe, maintain social distancing and try to order food and non-perishable food items online for delivery to your doorstep. There are many food delivery options such as Amazon Pantry, Amazon Students Program, Walmart online shipping and so on.
It is best to cook at home in these times and to avoid eating outside food as much as possible. There are so many beautiful videos and healthy food recipes scattered all across YouTube and everywhere online. Gaining some cooking expertise will help you eat more healthy and nutritious food and thereby strengthen your immunity and to stay safe.
FOR RECENT HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES
Many colleges are offering additional coronavirus student aid packages to new students and have waived the ACT and SAT requirements for the coming year. So getting admission to a college of your choice and financial assistance with your college expenses will be amply available this year. This is very good news to all students and families who are confused and affected by the economic hardships of this new pandemic.
Or you can also consider enrolling directly in one of the flexible colleges and quickly start accumulating college credits online and by distance.
THE CALM AND FOCUSED WILL WIN
These are trying times for everyone, but by staying calm, positive and focused on your college studies, you can be well ahead of the curve. In fact, though the circumstances are not great, this is a good time to simply study online without any outside distractions or unnecessary activities or long commutes. If you are able to stay calm and focused, you can actually be well on your way to college graduation much before this whole pandemic thing totally subsides. So no worries, just get on with executing your new college study plan and move further on to a fulfilling career!