As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many students and their families find themselves in economic circumstances that look very different than when they filed their 2020-21 FAFSA earlier this academic year. A new tool – SwiftStudent – launched this week by the Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation aims to help prospective and current college students who need to seek adjustments to their financial aid packages.
Through SwiftStudent, students can learn about the financial aid appeal process, review eligibility requirements, and customize free template appeal letters to submit to their college financial aid office. This virtual resource guides students through the appeal process relating to numerous special circumstances that may make them eligible for an adjustment to their financial aid, such as recent job loss of a parent, a medical crisis, and loss of childcare or housing.
SwiftStudent is available to all students who experience a change in circumstances that needs to be reported to the college aid office. It is free to use, and does not share or sell personal data.
It is important to note that a higher education institution’s process for distributing emergency aid provided by the CARES Act will be separate from its financial aid appeal process. The emergency aid is aimed at helping students cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the coronavirus outbreak, while the financial aid appeal process is for helping students whose circumstances have changed substantially due to an event like the loss of a job. Financial aid offices can use what’s known as professional judgment to adjust a student’s financial aid package in light of such circumstances.
Students should check their institution’s financial aid office website for specific guidance related to appeals. Some institutions may have their own form that students will need to submit to begin the appeal process. If a college does not have its own appeal from, SwiftStudent is the perfect tool for students to use. And even if a college does have its own form, SwiftStudent may still be useful as it can help students provided clearly articulated supplemental information about their situation.
According to an article from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA): “Creating a one-size-fits-all professional judgment form is challenging because all schools are unique in how they handle appeals, but for schools that lack a formal process, NASFAA members felt the form could help students focus their requests for professional judgment.”
To help its members gain a better understanding of SwiftStudent, NCAN is hosting a webinar with Abigail Seldin, CEO of the Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation. Abigail will introduce, demonstrate, and discuss SwiftStudent with webinar participants. To register, please check the weekly Upcoming Webinars email or Success Digest. (If you're not seeing SD in your inbox, we may be getting caught in your spam filter. You can prevent this by adding SuccessDigest@ncan.org to your email contacts.)
The content for SwiftStudent was organized by the Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation in partnership with more than a dozen advocacy organizations, associations, and colleges from across the country (including several NCAN members): the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA); Achieving the Dream; Everett Community College; Generation Hope; Higher Learning Advocates; Hope Center for College, Community and Justice; Indian River Community College; Institute for Women's Policy Research; Montgomery College; Montgomery Community College; NCAN; National Student Legal Defense Network; New America; Northwest Florida State College; Reach Higher at the Common App; uAspire; and Young Invincibles.