COVID19

Important Financial Aid Updates and FAQs Updated 7/2020

The Financial Aid Office is open. We do encourage you to call or email to set up an appointment if you need assistance. If you have questions, please email us at financialaid@helenacollege.edu.

The Financial Aid Office, with guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, is working to address questions and concerns of Helena College students who are impacted by the recent developments from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Financial Aid Office appreciates your understanding during this time, and will do our very best to assist you. In order to answer some of the most frequently asked questions we have created this COVID-19 FAQ.

This information will be updated regularly as it becomes available to inform our students, faculty, staff and larger community regarding any possible financial aid implications related to COVID-19.

We are awaiting further guidance from the College and U.S. Department of Education and will update these items as we obtain the information.
In general, students must continue to maintain minimum program enrollment requirements (online or in person) to receive aid.
  • Current Pell Grant and SEOG awards should not be affected
  • Current Federal Direct Loan awards should not be affected
  • Federal Work Study (see section below)
  • For all Federal Subsidized, Unsubsidized and PLUS loan borrowers:
    • All interest will be waived until September 30, 2020
      • Administrative forbearance will not result in capitalized interest
      • Interest waiver will be automatic
  • For Federal Subsidized, Unsubsidized, and PLUS loan borrowers in repayment status:
    • Payments paused until September 30, 2020
    • Borrowers can request an administrative forbearance from their loan servicer
      • Coronavirus and Loan Forbearance Information for student and parent borrowers.
      • To provide relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, the US Department of Education has made an administrative forbearance option available to federal student loan borrowers, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payments. Read more about these options in the borrower Q&As to learn more, and contact your loan servicer to find out your specific options.
    • Borrowers can complete an Income Driven Repayment (IDP) application
    • Borrowers have the option to continue paying normally-- this would decrease priniple significantly
    • Involuntary collections will be suspended
    • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
      • Months of paused payments on qualifying student loans will still count towards the PSLF 120 payments for public employees
        • Contact loan swervicer to ensure correct status of forbearance
      • Possible legislation coming to include months of service for job attached, furloughed employees and public employees working less than 30 hours due to COVID-19
Fall 2020 Work Study positions will be available soon, we are working to create safety measures for our staff and work study students. More information to come.
Based on guidance received by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE), at this time, Montana University System (MUS) financial aid programs for the spring 2020 term should not be substantially affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In general, students must continue to maintain minimum program enrolment requirements to receive the various state aid programs they were awarded.
Q: Are there any implications to my federal aid if I go home?
A: Students who plan to continue their enrollment (online) for spring 2020 will not be affected regardless of where they live. This applies to Federal Pell Grants, SEOG Grants, and Direct Loans. See section above related to Federal Work Study, if applicable.
We request your patience as we work through the many unprecedented needs and questions our campus must address. Please be assured that we recognize the financial impacts of COVID-19 on our students and their families and will provide more information as soon as possible.
Q: Am I eligible for financial aid for remote (online) learning?
A: Yes, you are eligible for federal, state and Helena College financial aid while you are enrolled in remote learning. You must still be enrolled for the required number of credits (half-time, full-time, etc.) to be eligible.
Q: What if I have extra expenses caused by COVID-19?
A: If you need additional funding to purchase your flight home, or other COVID-19 related expenses, federal regulations permit us to increase your cost of attendance to allow for this additional educational expense. Typically for domestic students this increased cost of attendance is covered by an offer of either a federal subsidized/unsubsidized student loan or a parent PLUS loan depending on your remaining federal eligibility. If you would like to request a budget adjustment, please contact us from your HC student email at financialaid@helenacollege.edu
Q: What if my parent(s)/spouse are financially impacted by illness, work closure or other COVID-19 related financial hardships?
A: The U.S. Department of Education allows the Financial Aid Office to reassess your family's ability to contribute to your educational expenses if their income has been impacted as a result of illness. Please contact our office from your HC student email at financialaid@helenacollege.edu to inquire about this process.
You may complete the COVID Emergency Request Form and submit it to the Financial Aid Office.
Q: Can I still get financial aid in the summer term?
A: Absolutely! We will continue to award and disburse financial aid as allowed by the U.S. Department of Education and OCHE. As a reminder, please register for your summer class, and then schedule an appointment through Starfish.
Q: Can I still contact the Financial Aid Office?
A: Yes! We are still here. Our phone number is: 406-447-6916 and our email is: financialaid@helenacollege.edu If you are a student, please email from your Helena College student email. You can set up an appointment through Starfish.
Q: Can I talk to someone one-on-one?
A: Yes!  Valerie and Karina will continue to be available for appointments which can be scheduled through Starfish. When requesting your appointment please provide a brief summary of what your questions are regarding to help us be more prepared for your appointment.
Q: Your office has requested I complete a form to complete my financial aid requirements. How do I get it to you?
A: Forms can always be submitted through your HC student email to financialaid@helenacollege.edu.
Please do not email any sensitive information, instead fax to 406-447-6397 or send via U.S. mail.
After ink signing the form, please scan or photograph the document and ensure it (and any required documentation) is formatted as a JPEG, PNG, or PDF file. If you decide to email documents as an any other personal identifying information prior to scanning the attachment.
You may also fax documents to 406-447-6397.

Other HC updates related to COVID-19 are available at: http://helenacollege.edu/campus_safety/health_advisories.aspx

Information will be updated as it becomes available.

Community Resources Information

We have attempted to put together a community resources list for students who may need additional help or financial relief in response to the changes to their academic or living situation that have occurred as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. Please note that Helena College does not endorse any private offerings, but recognize the need that our students may encounter:

Internet

For those who have no access or limited access to the Internet, a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreement states that providers will waive late fees, not cut off service for lack of payment, and open hot-spots. Below is a list of Internet offers from various companies. Note that this list may not be comprehensive, but it is the latest list we have complied on campus. We recommend reaching out to these entities or others that you work with to determine if you might qualify for any of their relief or assistance programs

  • AT&T: offers open hot-spots, unlimited data to existing customers, and $10/month plans to low-income families.
  • Spectrum: offers free Internet for 2 months
  • Comcast: offers free Internet for 2 months to low-income families, plus all Xfinity hot-spots are free to the public during this time.
  • Sprint: provides unlimited data to existing customers, and allows all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra change.
  • T-Mobile: unlimited data to existing customers, and coming soon, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge
  • Verizon: Automatically adding 15GB of data to plans across nearly all plans at no charge for the use from March 25-April 30th.

Storage

Many private storage companies are offering options:

  • U-Haul will extend 30 days of free self-storage at U-Haul owned and operated facilities to help college students impacted by unforeseen schedule changes at their colleges. The free month applies to new customers with college IDs and is a limited time offer subject to availability. The offer also applies to usage of U-Box containers. Please visit their website for more information.

Car Rentals

Companies like Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz are making it easier for students to get home to their families by reducing the age minimum and waiving the young renter fee for rentals.

The Coronavirus Assistance, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was approved by Congress and includes support for higher education, including emergency grants for students facing expenses due to COVID-19.

Helena College University of Montana acknowledges it signed and returned to the U.S. Department of Education the Certification and Agreement on April 17, 2020, and will use no less than 50% of the funds received for grants to students as directed in section 18004(a)(1).

Helena College is set to receive approximately $685,627 with no less than $342,814 designated for emergency financial aid grants to students. As of July 9, 2020, an estimated $107,579 will have been distributed. This amount will be updated every 45 days.

The total number of students eligible to participate in programs under section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and thus eligible to receive Emergency Financial Aid Grants under section 18004(a)(1) of the Cares Act is approximately 400.

The total number of students with a grant processed as of July 9 will be approximately 116.

The methods used to determine which and how much students receive in emergency fund grants under section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act follow:

  • Undergraduate or graduate degree seeking students who were enrolled as of March 13, 2020, and not scheduled to graduate in the current term. This has been adjusted to include recent April 2020 graduates.
  • Students who were not enrolled exclusively in online programs (programs defined as having no residential instruction).
  • Eligible under section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965.
  • Awards will be prioritized based on the 2019/2020 Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which is the value calculated because of your 2019/2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid as of May 20, 2020.
  • Helena College has selected an approach to equitably help as many eligible students as possible, prioritizing need based on the calculated EFC and institutional cost of attendance.
  • Students will be contacted in need order to allow for distribution and evaluation of resources.
  • Students will also be pointed towards other entities for assistance, such as SNAP, LIHEAP, and unemployment.
  • Remaining funds will be disbursed via an application or appeal process that has been distributed via email. 

Instructions, direction, and guidance were provided to eligible students by email and subsequent application. The application certifies that eligible students had a qualifying expense [1] or hardship related to COVID-19 campus disruption.

  1. Qualifying expenses include but are not limited to technology and connectivity needs related to distance learning, books and other instructional expenses for online modality, medical/healthcare costs, childcare, and food insecurity.

Last Updated: 7/9/20

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