Professional Judgment and Financial Aid Appeals
Colleges have shared that families are appealing for additional financial aid at higher rates because of the pandemic. Families may be experiencing significant financial hardships including job loss, layoffs, loss of savings, high medical expenses, or additional consumer debt. Changes in finances may greatly impact a family’s ability to pay for college. Even if a family has experienced no change in their financial circumstances, they remain concerned about the economic changes around them.
- The Department of Education responded by providing guidance to financial aid offices reiterating the use professional judgment to consider changes brought on by disruptions caused by COVID-19.
- The College Board responded by providing a series of Professional Judgment Tip Sheets created in partnership with financial aid professionals to assist colleges and universities manage appeals.
Awarding Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) funds
HEERF funds are intended for distribution directly to students in the form of emergency financial aid grants to help them cover expenses related to the disruptions of campus operations due to COVID-19. Financial aid professionals have shared 3 ways they are considering awarding HEERF funds:
- Option 1 - Use Financial Aid Management System to determine eligibility, apply awards, and disburse using normal disbursement process
- Option 2 - Use Accounts Payable to apply awards and disburse
- Option 3 – Hybrid or Combination: Determine eligibility through Financial Aid Management System, but do not award or disburse; cut checks directly from Accounts Payable
Department of Education HEERF guidance is changing rapidly. Visit the following sites for more information:
PowerFAIDS responds to CARES Act
- An update released in early April allows awarding of emergency Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). The CARES Act makes funding available for institutions to provide Emergency FSEOG awards for student expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. The CARES Act also relaxes some of the normal awarding rules and allowing institutions to award Emergency FSEOG to students who might not otherwise be eligible. Learn more at:
- An additional mandatory release of PowerFAIDS (25.4) is slated for release in mid to late June. This release will contain enhanced functionality to further assist aid offices with managing the distribution of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF).
- PowerFAIDS 26.0 will be released mid-August and will contain annual award year updates. New functionality to manage HEERF funds reporting will also be included.
Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC) available for remote processing
- Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC) allows families to submit documents via a secure file upload or mail and can be implemented in a few days during this time of displacement.
- New IDOC e-signature functionality provides improved supports to assist campuses and students complete aid requirements virtually.
CSS Profile fee waivers
- Entering undergraduate students in FEMA designated areas who are experiencing hardship due to natural disasters will automatically receive CSS Profile fee waivers.
The College Board has assembled additional resources for users of our financial aid programs.