State Financial Aid Guidance related to COVID-19
Contacting Financial Aid and SELF Loan Staff:
We have transitioned staff to working remotely, but can be reached via phone or email. If you would like to reach someone right away, Financial Aid and SELF Loan staff are available from 8am‐4:30pm Monday —2019 Friday at (651) 642‐0567.
If you prefer email, you can email a detailed question to the following:
SELF Loans: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other State Financial Aid programs: email@example.com
Many Minnesota colleges and universities have expressed concerns regarding how schools should proceed for students impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID‐19). Campus financial aid administrators can find State Financial Aid guidance and resources here. We also encourage institutions to review the resources in the National Association of Student Financial Aid (NASFAA) Coronavirus (COVID‐19) Web Center, which can be found here.
Recipients of the following state financial aid programs will see increased flexibilities and benefits. Some of the changes include:
- Grant eligibility may be reinstated for students who experience a COVID‐19 related full withdraw from enrollment for the following programs:
- Minnesota State Grant (including funds paid via the Minnesota Dream Act)
- Postsecondary Child Care Grant
- Minnesota Indian Scholarship
- The State Work Study program does not have any restrictions regarding teleworking or remote working. OHE is supportive of schools that make adjustments for their student staff, where appropriate. Please contact your school’s Financial Aid Office to ask about the availability of Work Study jobs.
- If you are a State Work Study student and have a qualifying COVID‐related disruption, you may still be paid Minnesota Work Study funds when you are unable to work due to COVID‐19. This includes if you are unable to work because your employer temporarily or permanently closes or you are quarantined and unable to travel to campus or the jobsite. Please contact your school’s Financial Aid Office to ask more about qualifying COVID‐related disruptions.
- If your school chooses to apply a Return of Title IV (R2T4) Waiver, where neither your school nor you the student must return federal financial aid funds after a COVID‐19 related withdrawal, then you may also qualify for a waiver of the return of State Financial aid funds from the following programs:
- State Grant (including funds paid via the Minnesota Dream Act)
- Grants for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities,
- MN Reconnect,
- Postsecondary Child Care Grants,
- Indian Scholarships and
- Teacher Candidate Grants.
Please contact your school’s Financial Aid Office to ask about these benefits.
About the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF)
- What is the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF)?
In March, 2020 the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed, which included a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) that provides emergency funding to higher education. In December, 2020 additional HEERF appropriations were allocated under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA). You may see references to the first round of HEERF under CARES being called HEERF I. Likewise, for HEERF under CRRSAA, you may see references to these funds as HEERF II. For both HEERF I and II, a portion of funds must go directly to students and a portion of the funds are directed to schools to cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the Coronavirus.
- Who is eligible?
The HEERF funds are not Federal Title IV student aid; however, guidance from the U.S. Department of Education stated that HEERF I funds should be given to students with exceptional need who are or could be eligible for Federal Title IV student aid. International, DACAmented and undocumented students are not eligible for Federal Title IV student aid and therefore were not eligible for HEERF I funds. Students who were enrolled in exclusively online programs on March 13th, 2020 were also excluded from HEERF I grants. However, HEERF II grants under the CRRSAA expanded eligibility to include students exclusively enrolled in distance education and stated that enrolled students do not have to be Title IV‐eligible. This expanded eligibility applies to both new funds under CRRSAA and any leftover funds under the CARES Act. The current guidance from the U.S. Department of Education is still that international, DACAmented and undocumented students are not eligible for HEERF I or II grants. However, if you fall into one of these student categories, you should still contact your school’s financial aid office because they may have an emergency program that is funded with College or University funds.
- How do I apply for a HEERF emergency grant?
HEERF funds are administered by your college or university. The process to apply for these emergency grants will be determined by each institution. Your school may require you to have filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), complete an application that your school has developed or your school may pre‐identify students and automatically award the funds. Contact your school’s financial aid office to determine how they are administering HEERF emergency financial aid grants. Students should be cautious of websites and services not associated with their college or university that claim to offer applications for COVID‐19 relief funds.
- Are HEERF funds available for the 2020‐2021 academic year?
That depends. The U.S. Department of Education gave schools up to one year to spend their share of HEERF I funding. Essentially, schools have until March of 2021 to spend the funds from HEERF I. Some schools may still have remaining HEERF I funds available for the current academic year, while others may have fully disbursed funds during 2019‐2020. Likewise, for HEERF II, schools were also give one year to spend the funds. It is possible some HEERF II resources could be spent by schools during the 2020‐2021 aid year, as well as 2021‐2022. Contact your school’s Financial Aid Office directly to inquire about the status of their HEERF I and HEERF II emergency financial aid grants, as well as to find out how they are identifying and awarding students.
- How will the funds be disbursed?
Grants awarded to students under HEERF I had to be based on a disruption of campus operations due to Coronavirus and could only be used to pay COVID‐related expenses such as food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare and child care expenses. Colleges and universities were required to pay HEERF I student emergency grants directly to students and not apply the grants toward a student’s outstanding balance. As of December 2020, leftover HEERF I and HEERF II grants allow a student to consent to the grant being applied toward their student account. The student must opt‐in with a written authorization.
- Are HEERF student emergency grant funds taxable?
The Treasury Department has released guidance on the taxability of emergency grant funding provided to students through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stated, in an FAQ document, that emergency funds provided to students will not count as taxable income.