End-of-Year COVID Updates and Resources
Although the return of in-person classes at most schools has made school feel more normal than it did last year, student life isn’t back to normal yet. Here are 5 updates and resources to help you finish your fall semester -- and prepare for 2022.
1. Colleges and Students Grapple with COVID Policies
At the beginning of the fall term, colleges rolled out a variety of different rules, policies and mandates for students, faculty, and staff in terms of mask-wearing, COVID testing, and vaccinations. At Amherst College, students protested COVID policies that they felt were too strict, such as requiring masks in residence halls and restricting trips off-campus. At other colleges, such as Belmont University, students rallied for stricter enforcement of COVID safety protocols.
College policies continue to change as COVID outbreaks spike and recede at campuses across the county. For the latest changes in COVID policies at different colleges, see Inside Higher Ed.
2. Federal Student Loan REPAYMENT PAUSE EXTENDED TO MAY 1, 2022
On Dec. 11, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced another extension of the student loan payment pause from Jan. 31, 2022 to May 1, 2022. The pause includes the following relief measures for eligible loans: a suspension of loan payments, a 0% interest rate, and stopped collections on defaulted loans. In March of 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government suspended student loan repayment and set interest rates to zero percent for eligible federal student loans. It also stopped collections on defaulted loans. After three extensions, this emergency relief will end on May 1, 2022. When borrowers are eventually required to resume their student loan repayments, interest will be charged on unsubsidized loans.
To find out more about making loan payments in 2022 and upcoming changes to the repayment process, visit the FAQ on the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website. FSA recommends that borrowers provide updated contact information to the servicer of their federal student loan and to StudentAid.gov as soon as possible so that they will receive all notices about the upcoming changes.
Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for an income based repayment plan or loan consolidation once your payment obligation resumes.
3. College Tuition Increased at Historically Low Rates
According to the College Board’s 2021 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report, during the COVID pandemic, many colleges and universities did not raise tuition. For the 2021-2022 academic year, the average cost of tuition increased at a historically low rate — and when adjusted for inflation, even decreased. The average cost of tuition at four-year public colleges increased only 1.6 percent for in-state students and 1.5 percent for out-of-state students. At private non-profit four-year colleges, the average cost of tuition went up on average 2.1 percent.
For more information on the average cost of tuition at four-year colleges and universities, see How Much Does College Cost?
4. MORE Interest in Gap Years
Some students take a gap year between high school and college — or even during college — to explore career interests, travel, work, volunteer, or take a break from academics. At the beginning of 2020, when colleges were sending students home for remote learning, some colleges, such as Harvard University, saw as much as a three-fold increase in the number of students requesting gap years, according to data collected by the Gap Year Research Consortium.
Membership in the Gap Year Association, a professional organization of gap-year providers and counselors, also doubled, according to Ethan Knight, executive director of the GYA, Knight told the ed-tech website Ed Surge that with this growth he sees evidence of new organizations offering a wider variety of programs, including those that are online or have flexible schedules, and experiences that pay stipends to students along the lines of Americorps.
If you’re thinking about taking a gap year, see CollegeData’s article Should You Consider a Gap Year? Or visit the Gap Year Association website and learn more about Gap Year Exploration Month coming in February.
5. Holidays Expected to be “More Normal” in 2021