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Job losses from coronavirus could mean more financial aid for students

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Posted at 3:29 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 23:26:15-04

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - College campuses across the country are quiet, and they will be that way for a while.

The coronavirus is now affecting more than just the education in the classroom.

"These students are in a situation that they've never faced before. They've never been through and gotten past large events like this," says Jeremi Watkins, Director of Financial Aid at Elizabeth City State University.

As people are laid off and furloughed, the question of how to pay for college bumps to the top of the list.

At Elizabeth City State University, advisers are preparing for an increase in free financial aid applications, otherwise known as FAFSA.

"When you look at the scale of it, it's not going to be 10 or 20, right? You're looking at probably a couple hundred [students] that are now all in the same situation," says the university's Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, Melinda Anderson.

With just under 1,800 students enrolled, Anderson says more than 90% of them receive some type of federal aid. About 70% are Pell Grant eligible.

If the coronavirus affects finances further, students or their parents can submit a request for reconsideration, which can prove job loss or change of income and possibly be eligible for more aid.

Related: Record number of Virginians file for unemployment

Administrators also worry about something else.

"We're also very concerned about their ability to pay for housing and dining services and the other fees that come with the cost of an education."

Watkins adds, "Students are already all of a sudden have new expenses to worry about. Now - they were planning to go home in May - they're having to go home early."

They say the major impact of this isn't expected to be felt until the summer or fall, so parents and students are encouraged to keep an open line of communication.

Watkins also cautions there will be aid available, but how much differs by state and institution.

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