Financial Aid support for current students and for next year

Monday, March 30, 2020

Rep. Pollet is vice-chair of the House
Higher Education Committee

By Rep. Gerry Pollet, 46th District
Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, North and Northeast Seattle 

Question and Answers for students at UW, other schools, including concerns for next year:
This is reposting an extensive explanation I shared in response to questions and concerns on another FB page over UW financial aid and enrollment.

As one of our legislative higher ed leaders, I've been trying to assist in ensuring that aid continues and to ensure people know that is the case. My thanks extend to numerous leaders at the UW, all our higher ed institutions in Washington and WSAC (WA Student Achievement Council, which administers our state student financial aid programs).

First concern: We are hearing concerns over students not enrolling for Spring quarter or not completing the semester. There are many faculty, parents, students wondering about the financial ability of students to enroll and learn online, and how that affects their financial aid.

State Need Grants remain in effect and will be distributed if a student enrolls in classes for the quarter. 
It does NOT change if the UW or any other institutions' classes are online. If students enroll in fewer than normal credits, they should check on the UW website, the institution they attend or the WSAC website, to be sure they enroll in enough credits to avoid a pro rata reduction, or to know what the pro rata reduction will be.

The UW is being very proactive in allowing students to get full UW grants with fewer credits than normal. (I'm continuing to see if State Need Grants can get more flexibility beyond giving full aid for enrolling with 12 credits).

Your Need Grant or Pell Grant is NOT REDUCED just because you are now living at home (including in another state), not in a dorm, etc. (Federal Pell grants do not appear to have been adjusted in the federal aid bill).

Re: Work Study: Early after the campuses closed, I received several disconcerting communications from student employees who were losing their work study employment and, on the other side of the coin, grad students told they would lose their job if they didn't show up for work in labs or for research where they were not essential. 

For the latter, this seems cleared up with the order about only essential workers allowed and guidance from UW to faculty and on-campus employers in this regard.

For the loss of work, WSAC acted and told institutions that work study funds should be converted to financial aid awards. 

UW has informed employers they should first try to keep employees on their payroll. Students should know if they lose work study employment, the UW will work to convert the state portion of the award to financial aid. 

I asked on a call with representatives from all our higher ed institutions the other day and was assured that they were all working to ensure that Work Study awards would be used as aid even if the job is not available this quarter or remainder of the semester.

RE: Next year: For students applying to college (something we are following in my household) and students who were counting on our State's unprecedented investment to change the State Need Grant to the WA College Grant with a guarantee of a full award to every student whose family income is up to 70% of median family income, we have a serious State financial challenge that no one has yet had time to plan for.

Students really need to fill out the FAFSA and WAFSA and apply for aid!!!

Being at home should provide plenty of time to make sure you apply for aid. Ask your parent(s) to gather up last year’s IRS form to help you. The WAFSA is Washington State’s own form to provide Need Grants / College Grants to students without legal immigration status. 

And, also remember to fill out applications for aid specific to the colleges or universities you are applying to. 

Want to stay close to home? Apply early to go to one of the Seattle Colleges. Remember, the Seattle Promise program will make attendance tuition free for most Seattle HS graduates.

Financial aid offers are being made based on last year's income and median. But, obviously the number of students whose family incomes have crashed will be far higher than the projected number of students who we expected to qualify. 

State revenue has also cratered to pay for the expansion and for the increased number of students who will need aid. We funded the expansion with a progressive tax on large businesses in tech that rely on higher ed investments and a business and occupation tax surcharge. 

The Legislature needs to examine additional progressive revenues when we come out of the immediate crisis so a generation of students doesn't lose their opportunity for postsecondary education.


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