School’s out for many colleges and universities that have closed in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
That can create a dire problem if you depend on your school for housing, food and on-campus jobs. And what does it mean for your student loans?
Although some schools have contemplated refunding some charges for room and board, according to The Wall Street Journal, the fact is you’re unlikely to receive a refund for the tuition and fees you’ve already paid.
We’re here to help you navigate these unchartered waters — including what to do to avoid racking up student loans.
How to Avoid Racking Up Student Loan Debt Due to the Coronavirus
Whether your college is closing its campus or you need to quarantine yourself, here’s how you can avoid taking on extra student loan debt.
An important note: If you need to reach your school, you may need to try multiple avenues. Remote-working staff may be able to assist, but expect longer waits if you’re calling the financial aid office, for instance.
Alternatively, your school’s official social media sites might provide more immediate guidance for how to contact specific offices or departments.
If Your College Campus Closes
Beyond the take-home tests and online classes, there’s the real cost associated with planning to live in one place and then being told to go away.
Some colleges are offering at least temporary shelter in dorms, but you’ll need to reach out to your college’s housing services to let them know your situation.
If you’re displaced because of your college’s closing, you may need someplace to store all your stuff — U-Haul is offering a free month of self-storage at U-Haul owned and operated facilities. You must be a new customer, but you only need to show your college ID to get the deal.
Some hotels — the ones that have remained open — are also offering discounts to students who need a place to stay before booking arrangements to get back home.
The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago, for instance, is offering a discounted rate of $99/night plus taxes and fees for displaced college students, according to Laura Langemo, senior specialist, public relations for Radisson Americas. The rate is available through April 30 and you’ll need to show your college ID at check-in.
Hotels near your college may be offering deals to make up for their own cancellations, but call ahead to confirm.
If You Can’t Attend Class
If you can’t get back to school because you’re under quarantine, the Department of Education’s financial aid website recommends that you reach out to your school’s financial aid office and academic adviser.
If the person responsible for your tuition payments — you, your parents, your grandparents — lost their source of income, ask your school’s financial aid office about alternative payment options and potential emergency funding to cover costs.
If you’re currently repaying student loans held by the federal government, you’re eligible for an interest waiver. Check the Department of Education website for details and updates.
If you’re sick or must care for a family member, reach out to your academic advisor and the financial aid office for a potential leave of absence.
The thing you shouldn’t do: simply stop going to class. If your school has moved to online classes, you must participate in them to remain eligible for financial aid.
If you don’t have the money to continue full time, at least consider cutting back to attending online classes part time. By maintaining half-time status, you can continue deferring your student loans.
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.