The coronavirus pandemic has created a new normal for Americans, especially students. As researchers continue to work toward a viable vaccine and other solutions, there may continue to be significant changes to business as usual.
That includes the college experience for students during the 2020-21 academic year – and even beyond. If you’re wondering what college life is going to be like, here are some things you need to know.
How coronavirus will impact the 2020-21 academic year
For college students, trying to figure out how they’ll proceed with this school year can be frustrating. Here are some different aspects of the college experience and how they might impact you.
Because many universities are planning to provide mostly or even all virtual classes, it might make sense that college tuition in coronavirus times would go down to compensate for the reduced experience.
But according to experts, the opposite may happen. Some schools have offered discounts to certain students who qualify. But many other universities have stated that they have no plans to reduce tuition costs due to the pandemic.
This may be partly because many universities across the country project that they’ll lose tens of millions of dollars in room and board, as well as other fees. After all, it doesn’t make sense to live on or near campus if you’re not going to be attending classes in person.
In fact, some colleges may turn to increasing their tuition costs over the next few years at a faster rate than they have in the past to make up for their losses now.
Make sure you understand which costs you’ll need to pay for the upcoming school year and ensure that you have enough money to make it happen.
Depending on where you’ll be attending school, you may end up with one of many different plans for how you’ll attend classes. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, here are some of the approaches colleges are planning to use:
- Primarily online (24%)
- Primarily in person (21%)
- Hybrid approach (16%)
- Fully online (4.7%)
- Fully in person (2.5%)
- To be determined (26%)
- Other (5%)
If you’re not sure how your school will approach education this upcoming year, contact them directly to find out. If the college is offering multiple options, choose the one that makes you feel the most comfortable.
Socializing and networking
While some colleges are opting to hold classes primarily or even fully in person, they may restrict other aspects of the college experience, including social events and networking opportunities.
Again, measures will vary from school to school, so you’ll want to contact your college directly to determine what opportunities will be available for you.
Federal student loan rates expected to be a record low
While the college experience may not be as robust as it has been in the past, college students will benefit from lower federal student loan interest rates. In fact, they’ll be at a historic low.
Here’s what to expect:
- Undergraduate Direct Loans: 2.75%
- Graduate or professional Direct Loans: 4.3%
- Parent and graduate or professional Direct PLUS Loans: 5.3%
The best thing about these low interest rates is that you’ll be able to take advantage of them for the life of the loans.
That said, borrowing is still borrowing. If you can get some or all of your college costs paid through scholarships, grants, work-study or another form of employment, you’ll save money in the long run.
Need additional help with affording college tuition?
With many schools offering no breaks on college tuition and federal loans sometimes not being enough, you may want to apply for private student loans for college. Private student loans typically don’t provide the same benefits as federal loans. And you’ll need to undergo a credit check to get approved — that means you may also need a creditworthy co-signer.
But if you need some extra cash to bridge the gap between what you have and what you owe, private student loans can help.
The best private student loans for college offer low interest rates, flexibility with repayment terms and other features that can make it easier to pay back that debt after you graduate.
Before you apply, though, take the time to research all of your options. Purefy’s rate comparison tool allows you to shop around and compare rates from multiple lenders in one place, making this part of the process easier.
As you compare rates, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Many lenders offer both variable and fixed interest rates. While variable rates start off lower, they can change over time, which means you may end up paying more than if you were to pick a fixed rate. On the flip side, fixed rates start higher but they don’t change.
Will college life be the same amidst the coronavirus pandemic?
As with many other aspects of life during the current pandemic, incoming and current students can expect their college experience to be a little different for the 2020-21 academic year.
Unfortunately, because each university is approaching how they handle the pandemic and classes differently, there’s no consensus for what students should expect and how they can manage their classes, homework, social lives, and networking plans.
Speak with someone at your college to find out how it plans to manage the student body and classes, along with other aspects of the college experience, to determine the best path forward for you.
Also, make sure you have your financing in place before you begin classes. As in most cases, federal loans are generally better than private student loans, especially with record-low interest rates. But you’ll do better with financing options that don’t require you to pay back the money.
If you still have a gap after federal loans and all other ways to pay for college, consider using private student loans to cover it. Be sure to shop around and compare multiple lenders to find the right fit, looking at rates, repayment terms, and all other features.