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How to Find More Money for College During the Pandemic

Suzanne Shaffer


COVID-19 has impacted many families financially — including their ability to pay for college. What may have been a positive financial outlook in the fall of 2019, when students applied and accepted admission, has changed dramatically for many families with the nationwide shutdowns and changes in employment.

Student athletes have been hit hard as many colleges are cutting programs to save money and stay afloat. Sports Illustrated reported that "In Division I alone, 30 athletic teams have been eliminated in eight weeks. Four schools have cut at least three sports and a fifth, Brown, discontinued a whopping eight athletic programs. According to one site tracking the cuts, more than 80 programs have been eliminated across all levels.” When programs are cut, scholarships are also often rescinded. The National College Players Association (NCPA) is “calling on the NCAA to enact emergency legislation to address a number of pressing issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Needless to say, athletes aren’t the only students who are impacted. Many students who'd planned to use family funds to pay for college are now faced with financial hardship and left wondering how they will be able to afford college. Families are being forced to get creative and look for funds in the form of scholarships and grants if they wish to avoid borrowing to pay for college.

If you find you are short on funds to pay for college, use these tactics before you decide to take out loans.

Contact the College

Your first stop in securing additional funding is the college financial aid office. If your family situation has changed (loss of income due to COVID-19), your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) will change as well. That simply means that the college may be able to offer you additional funding to supplement your current financial aid package. They will require documentation to initiate a change so be prepared to provide it.

When contacting the college, be sure to ask about any scholarships or grants offered from specific departments or majors on campus. If your student has a relationship with a professor within their major of study, your student should contact them to ask if they know of any grants or scholarships available to current students.

Search for Outside Scholarships

Students should always be searching and applying for outside scholarships. There are scholarships available for current college students based on specific majors, areas of interest, ethnicity and more. Your student can do a Google search with specific criteria such as: scholarships for science majors, scholarships for college sophomores or even just scholarships for current college students.

It’s not commonly known that the federal government also provides a searchable list of scholarships. The Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website features more than 8,000 scholarships. Your student can save time scanning by highlighting results according to their degree level and the location of their home and school.

To get started, here are a few links for outside scholarships:

For more tips on how to search and where to look, read our article COVID-19 and Scholarship Money for College.

Seek Grant Funding

There are grant programs designed to benefit every kind of student in every area of study. Thousands of organizations, both public and private, provide grant money in varying amounts to students who are struggling to cover their college tuition.

However, finding the right grant program takes time, research and commitment. Your student can search online and at the library. Proper research will help lead you to the grant you need. There are need-based, merit-based and career-specific grants. When searching, be specific. For example, if your student is a Hispanic female attending college to become an accountant, search for grant programs dedicated to Latin-American female students enrolled in business and accounting studies.

Many grant programs are found in unlikely places. As your student digs deeper, they may uncover funds that have not yet been claimed.

To get started, check out these lists provided by collegescholarships.org:

If they haven’t already, your student should also pursue grants provided by state education departments. Student Loan Hero has compiled a list of each state education website along with the grants offered by each in their Guide to State Grants and Scholarships.

If your family needs additional resources to pay for college, these three tips should help your student find funding during these difficult economic times.

Suzanne Shaffer counsels students and families through her blog, Parenting for College. Her advice has been highlighted on Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News College and TeenLife online and she has written for Smart College Visit, College Focus, Noodle Education and Road2College. Her articles have also been featured in print in TeenLife, UniversityParent and CollegiateParent publications.
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