College and money go together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich- you can’t have one without the other. Or can you?
COVID-19 has affected the financial state of people throughout the world. College students and their families are no exception to this.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form for current and prospective students at a university that, once completed, tells students their financial aid benefit based on the income of the student and family. In a COVID-19 world, families scramble to find out how to afford college and the FAFSA is one way to accomplish this.
Sarah Everitt, director of financial aid operations and student financial services, said that COVID-19 has not changed the format of the FAFSA or how it helps students around the nation.
“[The financial aid process] hasn’t changed in terms of students still apply and then are awarded financial aid. But what we have seen is there are a lot of students and their families that have been affected by COVID-19 and that comes in, typically, in reduction or hours or job loss,” Everitt said on the phone.
These types of scenarios are taken into consideration through the financial aid office by way of an appeal process. Students and their families can fill out an additional form that outlines circumstances that the financial aid office can take into consideration when giving aid to students.
“Once we get that information from the family we will review it, make updates to the student's FAFSA application and then recalculate their aid eligibility,” Everitt said on the phone.
Because the financial aid office gave out aid packages in February for the upcoming year, before the pandemic began, students will have to wait to fill out the form or go through the appeal process.
Everitt did give advice for students looking for other ways to pay for college during this time. Aside from outside scholarships, GU offers work-study and on-campus jobs for its students.
Work-study jobs are offered through state and federal levels and require financial need via the FAFSA application. However, Everitt said, most work-study jobs do not have a requirement for state or federal work-study positions.
“In years past, we’ve had about 1,500 students work in the work-study programs. We expect to continue to offer robust work opportunities. The job opportunities will evolve as departments understand their needs now that we are back on campus,” Everitt said in an email.
As of now, GU has hired 1,000 students for work-study jobs. Everitt said this is on track with previous years considering the smaller student body this semester, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Work-study does look different given the pandemic. Aside from some positions being remote, the State Work-Study program is being used by GU, on- and off-campus.
There are students on-campus who did lose their jobs that they had prior to the pandemic. Carsyn Kniss, the front desk assistant in the John J. Hemmingson Center, said she found out her job was not available for the fall semester on Aug. 14, via email.
Kniss worked under the GUEST department at GU, where events on campus would be set up by students. Since there are no events going on, due to COVID-19, her job was cut.
“It would have been nice [to have a job] because I could buy groceries with that money and now money that I don’t have,” Kniss said.
Kniss said that not having her job has put a lot more pressure on her parents and knows she isn’t the only one.
“A lot of people do depend on that money," Kniss said. "I knew quite a few people who I worked with, needed those hours every single week to make ends meet. That is so stressful. That is jeopardizing their education because they might not be able to come back to school.”
As the school year continues, Everitt said jobs will open up on campus as departments become more aware of what their needs are.
“We encourage students to check job postings frequently – new positions are being added as departments identify needs for student workers,” Everitt said in an email. “If, after reviewing and applying for positions students aren’t successful, they can always connect with the Student Employment department for additional help.”
For more information on job availability, you can go to ZagsIgnite or the Student Employment section on myGU. For help with FAFSA, the financial aid office is taking appointments which can be made online.