When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and colleges switched to online-only classes, many students, professors, and administrators assumed that things would go back to normal in the fall.
But now that things are still up in the air, many students are realizing that the fall semester may also be held online. And since they won’t have access to the same facilities, many are requesting that colleges offer a full or partial refund. In this article, we dig into how you can request a tuition discount this semester due to Covid-19.
A full refund isn’t likely, but there might be ways to get more financial aid if you understand how.
1) Get clear on the possibilities
There are a few different strategies that colleges are taking to help students:
Most colleges increase the cost of tuition every year. In the wake of COVID-19, many have implemented a tuition freeze, which means rates will stay the same. Most tuition freezes will be determined one year at a time. Just because there’s a tuition freeze for one year doesn’t mean there won’t be an increase the following year.
A tuition discount is when colleges decrease the cost of credit hours. Many students think that because schools are offering online-only classes, they should offer a tuition discount. Currently, three colleges (all HBCUs) have decreased tuition for the fall semester. It’s unclear if that number will continue to grow.
Financial Aid Boost
A financial aid boost is when the college reviews your financial aid package and approves you for more funding. This can happen if they determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) has changed and that you qualify for more need-based aid.
2) Get prepared
Schools may change their policies if they see other universities offering discounts or refunds. See what other schools in your state are doing. If you go to a small private college, compare your school’s policy to similar institutions across the country. Use this as fuel to get a refund or discount.
Check out the Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of colleges’ reopening plans (you’ll need a free account to access).
3) Get organized or join your fellow students
Students from some schools have started online petitions that you can sign to ask for a tuition discount, freeze, or refund. Contact your student government representative about what they’re doing for the student body.
If there’s no petition in place, you can start one through Change.org. Make sure to share it on social media, and even consider pitching it to local news outlets. Peer pressure may influence schools to change their policy.
4) Put together your own pitch
If one or both of your parents has lost their jobs, been furloughed or had their hours reduced, you should consider asking for a revised financial aid package. You may now be eligible for need-based aid, including grants and scholarships.
You should make a list of the details, such as how much your family earns now compared to how much they earned when you applied. Try to do this as quickly as you can since many grants and scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Then, create a speech to read when talking to someone on the phone or a template email to copy and paste. A prepared statement will ensure you don’t forget to mention everything relevant, and that you make your point as clearly and concisely as possible. Use one of these pre-made templates to get you started.
5) Contact the financial aid office
If your family’s financial situation has changed, you should contact the financial aid office and let them know. Bring your pitch and figures, and meet with them in-person if possible or call them on the phone.
You’ll likely have to follow up several times before you get a response. Have a concrete list of the figures, including your family’s previous EFC and how your family’s income has changed. Mention any other special changes, like a COVID diagnosis, and why you’re an asset to the university, like if you’re a star student or editor of the school newspaper.
Right now, colleges are making things up as they go. There’s no clear blueprint for them to follow, which also means their policies may be more flexible now. The best thing you can do is to get organized and try to contact the financial aid department as soon as possible. Be persistent, and talk to different people if you need to.
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