School

What statement best describes your situation?

"I am a student who was impacted by coronavirus"

What do I do if I cannot make my student loan payments?

Please see our "Student Loans" page for more information about your loan repayments.

Can I get a refund from my college?

According you COVID College Support, you may be able to receive a prorated amount of money returned for the rest of the semester if you paid for housing or a meal plan through your college. Here's how to do it:

"Google your college name and “room and board refund” to see if your college has posted instructions. If they haven’t, try reaching out to your college’s student housing department. Make sure you start by stating that your income has been negatively impacted due to the coronavirus crisis."

Can I access emergency funds from my college or other sources?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed and included aid for Institutions of Higher Education to support displaced students. Students cannot apply for assistance directly from the U.S. Department of Education but should contact their institutions for further information and guidance. Foster Club put together some useful guidance on this (including how much your school is getting to distribute to displaced students, and what emergency financial aid grants to students can be used for).

Besides the CARES Act, Edquity is compiling a list of college emergency funds. Check to see if your school has a fund and how to access it.

Additionally, as a student you can apply:

Lastly, you can use the Rise Free student Navigator Network which helps helps students affected by COVID-19 navigate additional financial assistance, public benefits, and local resources.

“I am concerned about returning to college”

There are a lot of factors which can influence your decision to return to college. You should consider your options and the weight of your priorities when making a decision. As of yet, there are no federal guidelines that all colleges must follow to reopen; thus, it is up to each school to individually decide how and when to reopen, taking into consideration local, county-level, or state mandates. Due to the lack of federal guidelines, it is very important to communicate with your advisor and your caseworker as you make your decision. Additionally, your school’s response to the COVID-19 crisis will likely be communicated through their website or via email.

To help weigh your options, you can follow this decision tree and review the content below based on the outcome that it leads you to:

(1) My college is transitioning to remote learning. Should I attend school online?

Are there resources to help me succeed at school in a remote setting?

Your school wants you to succeed despite the pandemic, and the best way to set yourself up for success with regards to your educational attainment is to be proactive about communicating your needs. You should have a conversation with your caseworker and your advisor about what resources will be available should you need help.

Some schools are offering expanded support and tutoring services, while others have created new policies around grading that allow students to change from a letter grade to a pass/fail grade at later points in the semester. Ask about virtual tutoring sessions, virtual study groups, and virtual office hours.

If you need a computer or certain software, there are resources available to you. If you need to print anything, your local library is a great resource for cheap document printing, as are Staples, FedEx, and UPS stores. Some retailers offer student discounts, so bring your student ID.

I don’t think I will be successful in a remote learning environment. Will it be a problem?

That’s okay! A study showed that online learning environments are not as effective as in-person classroom instruction, and that the online model typically benefits students with a strong academic background who are already self-motivated. If you struggled in school (like most foster youth!) then online learning might not be for you. In that case, you might want to consider taking time off from school (see below).

A report released by the Los Angeles Unified School District showed that foster and homeless students were less engaged in distance learning. Statewide, foster and homeless students fare worse than their peers in terms of educational outcomes because of the additional barriers they face.

(2) It doesn’t make sense for me to stay in school during the pandemic. Should I take time off?

My resources are dependent on my being a student. Will I risk my eligibility?

If you receive stipends, housing, meal assistance, or other types of resources from your school or agency, these programs may only be available to you if you are present on campus or are enrolled in school. When you take time off from school, you will likely be responsible for these expenses yourself. Your case worker can help you find a job for the semester or year you are not in school. It’s also important to know that if you get Education Training Vouchers (ETV), this funding is only available to you up until age 23, regardless of how much time you have been in school or how many semesters you have left.

If I don’t have access to student housing, where will I live?

Your social worker may be able to help you access housing, including through the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative (we put together a summary on how to access this program).

(3) It’s too risky for me to attend school in-person and I can’t take time off. Can I enroll at another school?

I am part of a medically at-risk demographic and concerned about my health, will my school force me to attend in person?

There are certain underlying medical conditions that increase your risk of severe illness and possible death from COVID-19. It is the view of Think Of Us that those who are medically at-risk should not attend classes in person for the duration of the pandemic. School is important, but so is your life.

If your college is planning to have in-person classes, ask your advisor or call your school to ask about special remote accommodations for medically at-risk students.

My school does not have a remote option for at-risk students, can I enroll elsewhere?

If your college is not offering a remote option for medically at-risk students, you should talk to your advisor and caseworker about taking remote classes at another institution. All schools will accept significant amounts of outside credits (>50% of all credits necessary for graduation) to be transferred and accepted towards your degree, so a semester or year’s worth of credits at another institution will not derail your graduation date. Generally, schools in your state or city will be the cheapest option.

Will I lose my resources if I enroll at a different school?

Taking remote classes at another institution this is not the same as transferring, instead you would be classified as a visiting student. Visiting students are still eligible for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) funding at their new institution, but will not be offered institutional grants, nor will the scholarships from their old institution transfer. Any aid you get from the state, the ETV program, or your agency will be able to follow you to the school you are visiting.

(4) My college will continue to be in-person. How do I protect myself?

How can I keep myself safe from COVID-19?

Due to economic factors, many colleges are planning to reopen their campuses despite the rise in positive cases of COVID-19. You should reach out to your advisor or contact your school’s health or medical office to inquire about the procedures and policies for the upcoming year, including:

  • What are class sizes?

  • Where are classes held, indoors or outdoors?

  • If they are housed indoors, what are the air filtering systems available (e.g., portable HEPA filters, heat and air conditioning system with an air filter grade of MERV 13 or higher)?

  • Where will you be housed? Alone or with roommates? (And if roommates, what was their exposure level prior to meeting? What will be your safety and hygiene practices while sharing housing?)

Colleges are mitigating the risk of infection by decreasing class sizes, decreasing the number of students and faculty on campus during the semester, prohibiting group activities, setting up tent classrooms outside, and other initiatives. While these practices can reduce the risk of infection, you should wear a mask around campus and in the classroom, stay 6 feet away from other people as much as possible, and practice frequent hand washing, cleaning, and disinfection. If you are able, advocate for your own needs to the Student Affairs office, including requesting for accommodations, getting your own apartment or dorm room, or electing to attend classes online if they are provided in more than one mode.

What happens if my school goes remote part way through the semester or year?

We know that foster youth often rely on on-campus housing for permanency during the year, but so do international students and other students who can’t go home for one reason or another. You are not alone, and you can inquire through your advisor and your Residential Life office as to what the process would be to apply to stay in on-campus housing should the college shut down. You can also research and monitor the government policies in place in your locality that mandate schools closing (for example, in New York , schools must close if the coronavirus infection rate surpasses 9%, and in California, schools located in counties on the Monitoring List cannot open for in-person instruction until their county has come off the Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days).

If the college has no policies in place, or they are not considering letting students stay on campus in the event of an increased outbreak, talk to your caseworker or your local Department of Children’s Services to ask about housing resources for youth displaced from campus by the virus. Your caseworker can refer you to the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative, however the process is often lengthy and not necessarily great for a crisis moment. At the onset of the pandemic in March, there were many organizations that provided resources to displaced students to find alternative housing options, and these options may appear again. Keep coming back to this page as we will update it with any new resources that come up.

Lastly, you can also prepare by learning how to break your lease if your college shut down due to coronavirus.