COVID-19 FAQs

Important Financial Aid Updates and FAQS Updated 5/27/2020

The Financial Aid Office, with guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, is working to address questions and concerns of University of Montana (UM) students who are impacted by the recent developments from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Financial Aid Office appreciates your understanding during this time, and will do our very best to assist you. In order to answer some of the most frequently asked questions we have created this COVID-19 FAQ.

This information will be updated regularly as it becomes available to inform our students, faculty, staff and larger community regarding any possible financial aid implications related to COVID-19.   

We are awaiting further guidance from the University and U.S. Department of Education and will update these items as we obtain the information – Last update 3/23/20

In general, students must continue to maintain minimum program enrollment requirements (online or in person) to receive aid. 

  • Current Pell Grantand SEOG awards should not be affected
  • Current Federal Direct Loan awards should not be affected 
    • Coronavirus and Loan Forbearance Information for student and parent borrowers.

      To provide relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, the US Department of Education has made an administrative forbearance option available to federal student loan borrowers, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payment. Read more about these options in the borrower Q&As  to learn more, and contact your loan servicer to find out your specific options.

  • Federal work study (see section below)

For information on applying for Summer Work Study and requesting Hire Forms, visit this page.

Federal Work Study —  The Federal regulations and State of Montana decisions include provisions for Work Study funding based on the current status of the University, and assumes the student is still enrolled in at least 6 credits for spring 2020. Work Study supervisors should contact Ellen Smith, ellen.smith@mso.umt.edu,with any additional questions.

Spring Work Study Information regarding lost wages due to COVID:

Notice for employers whose student workers are NOT being paid through Work Study funding:
  • The Financial Aid Office has identified students who are eligible for work study but are not currently being paid through work study. We may be able to assist a limited number of students who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. We have limited funding, and many of these students will not receive compensation for lost Non- Work Study wages for this period of time. If you/your student employee turned in a Work Study Hire Form this year but have noticed this student being paid Non- Work Study, please contact Ellen Smith, ellen.smith@mso.umt.edu and use "NWS missing Hire Form" as the subject of your email. Please be sure to include the student's 790#. 
  • Students we are unable to compensate for lost wages and are having trouble paying for education related expenses may apply for emergency funding however the Federal CARES Act funds cannot be used to replace lost wages. A student may request funding for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due tocoronavirus (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, internet, health care, and childcare).

Guidelines for Work Study Employers:

  • If your department/ organization is able to provide the same or similar job duties for the student Work Study employee – either on-site or remotely:
    • The student employee can continue to work and earn Work Study wages through the end of the semester. 
    • Work Study students may work remotely. If your Work Study student employees can complete their duties remotely, please update their job description in your records to reflect work that can be accomplished off-site (the financial aid office does not need a new hire form with these changes reflected).
    • Student employees and their supervisors are encouraged to maintain proactive lines of communication, including discussions pertaining to work schedules and expectations. As always, supervisors must oversee the work of any Work Study recipient and submit timesheets in a timely fashion by required deadlines.  
  • If your department/ organization is unable to provide the same or similar job duties for the student
    • If the office/site is closed as a result of the Coronavirus, and the duties cannot be moved remotely (for example, custodial work), the student is considered “unable” to work. 
    • If the office/site is not closed as a result of the Coronavirus, and the duties cannot be moved remotely (for example, custodial work), but the student:
      • has left campus as encouraged by the UM administration
      • is quarantined due to COVID-19
      • is caring for a family member diagnosed with COVID-19
      • is caring for children who are not in school/daycare due to COVID-19 related closures
    • In each of the above cases the student is considered “unable” to work and can be paid through the end of the semester based on the amount of hours they were scheduled to have worked each week.  
  • If your department/ organization:
    • Can provide the same or similar job duties for the student on-site and your department has been deemed essential and the student chooses to remain in Missoula but does not wish to continue working, they forfeit the remaining unearned portion of their Work Study award for the 2019-2020 year. Students should not be required to come to campus unless they work for a department that has been deemed as essential.
    • Can provide the same or similar job duties for the student remotely, and the student is equipped to work remotely— but the student does not wish to continue working, they forfeit the remaining unearned portion of their Work Study award for the 2019-2020 year.
    • These are the only two scenarios in which the student is not eligible for compensation for scheduled hours not worked.
  • As an on-campus employer, how do I report hours for a student who has worked vs. those who were unable to work?
    • Please continue to use Griz Time Online (GTO) to record employee hours. 
    • If a student has a permanent shift schedule, please use that to enter their hours in GTO. After entering hours in GTO, please download the payroll information as an excel and make a note next to each student who is being paid for hours not worked due to COVID. Instructions for this reporting protocal can be found here:  Work Study COVID Reporting Instructions.Then email that excel to ellen.smith@mso.umt.edu with the email subject line "WS hours re COVID."
    • If a student's shifts change regularly, please contact Ellen Smith in the financial aid office for guidance. (ellen.smith@mso.umt.edu)
  • OFF CAMPUS EMPLOYERS:
    • How do I report hours for a student who has worked vs. those who were unable to work? Please use this time sheet to report hours for all of your students, whether they were able to work the hours or not. Be sure to review the scenarios above to determine if your student employee is eligible to be paid for hours scheduled but not worked (note: most students are eligible)
    • For the purposes of "signing" these time sheets:
      • Student Signature: please have students sign their paper time sheet and keep in your records, or obtain an email from the student's UM Student Email where the student confirms the hours are accurate.
      • Supervisor Signature: The final email with the Financial Aid provided excel time sheet should include your (the supervisor's) approval of the hours and and be sent from your work email to ellen.smith@mso.umt.edu with the subject "OFF CAMPUS WS hours re COVID."
    • If a student's shifts change regularly, please contact Ellen Smith in the financial aid office for guidance. (ellen.smith@mso.umt.edu)
    • We are exploring several options, but at this time, employers will still be responsible for their share of the students wages. We will update this if anything changes.
    • Students cannot earn more than their Work Study award for the aid year. If you are not sure of the student’s balance, please email their name and 790 number to Ellen Smith (ellen.smith@mso.umt.edu)

 Students:

  • Work Study students should continue to report to their job locations (on or off campus) for as long as the location remains open. The expectation for externships, internships and clinicals is that unless due to closure, you should show up to those engagements.

Please confirm with your supervisor. 

  • If your department is able to provide the same or similar job duties for you – either on campus or remotely:
    • You can continue to work and earn Work Study wages through the end of the Spring 2020 semester. Students cannot earn more than their Work Study award for the aid year. 
    • Work Study students may work remotely. Your job description should reflect work that can be accomplished off-campus. Please speak with your supervisor for further details.
    • As always, supervisors must oversee the work of any Work Study recipient and submit timesheets in a timely fashion by required deadlines.  
    • You can choose to go home and not work, even if the department IS able to provide the same or similar job duties for the student (on campus or remotely) but by doing so you forfeit their remaining unearned Work Study award. 
  • If your office is closed and you cannot report to work     OR
  • If your department is unable to provide the same or similar job duties for the student:
    • You will be paid your regular scheduled hours through the end of the Spring 2020 term, up to the amount of original award. We will provide a format for supervisors to report the hours the student was scheduled for through the end of the semester.
  • How will this affect Summer Work Study options?

Based on guidance received by OCHE and the University, at this time, MUS financial aid programs for the Spring 2020 term should not be substantially affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In general, students must continue to maintain minimum program enrollment requirements to receive the various state aid programs they were awarded.

Q: Are there any implications to my federal aid if I go home?  

A: Students who plan to continue their enrollment (online) for spring 2020 will not be affected regardless of where they live.  This applies to Federal Pell Grants, SEOG, and Direct Loans.  See section above related to Federal Work Study, if applicable.  

 

Q: Are on-campus students receiving a refund if they choose not to stay in their room?

A: The University of Montana is following the Montana University System’s (MUS) lead on these issues:

  • We have confirmed that the MUS refund approval is for students in standard residence halls and the board/dining associated with those halls only.  Lewis and Clark and other UM apartment residents have leases and those remain in effect.
  • We strongly encourage you, for your health and safety and that of our entire campus community, to make plans to move out of our residence halls as soon as possible. As quickly as COVID-19 is spreading throughout the U.S., we want to ensure that our students are as far out of harm’s way as possible and leaving a communal living situation will do just that. And while we are strongly encouraging you to leave, no one will be evicted from our halls. We will find suitable accommodations.
  • If your circumstances are such that our residence halls are your only option, please contact UM Housing immediately, at 406.243.2611. They will work with you on your individual situation. We will not evict anyone from the residence halls.
  • For residence hall students to request a refund, please click here to tell us your plans for the remainder of the semester. The survey will begin the refund process automatically.  Important: if students remain in the residence halls, their refund will not be triggered right away.  Some students may be here for another week or so and their refund will process at the time they check out of the halls.

We at UM request your patience as we work through the many unprecedented needs and questions our campus must address. Please be assured that we recognize the financial impacts of COVID-19 on our students and their families and will provide more information as soon as possible. For more information regarding refunds for housing expenses please contact UM Housing at 406.243-2611.

UM scholarships already awarded for the Spring 2020 term will not be affected.

  • While some UM Scholarship programs, like the Montana Academic Achievement (MAA), Leadership Achievement (LAS) and Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), are typically not available to students who are categorized as online-only, those students whose courses were transitioned to online due to COVID-19 measures put in place by UM will be exempt from this requirement for the spring 2020 term. Future semesters (Fall 2020 forward) will require the student to ‘return’ to on-campus learning modalities in order to receive these fund types.

Q: Will my spring 2020 athletic aid (NCAA) be impacted?

A: If you have questions regarding the potential impacts to your athletic aid due to changes that occur in response to COVID-19, please contact Jean Gee at jean.gee@mso.umt.edu

Q: What is the impact, if any, to GI Bill recipients when their schools are either closed or has directed their students to take classes online as a result of precautions taken due to COVID-19?

A: If you have questions regarding the potential impacts to veterans education benefits due to changes that occur in response to COVID-19, please contact Daryl Lee at daryl.lee@mso.umt.edu

Q: Will my spring 2020 external (outside UM) funding be impacted?

A: If you have questions regarding the potential impacts to your external funding (i.e. vocational rehabilitation, outside scholarships, etc.) due to changes that occur in response to COVID-19, we recommend contacting that awarding-agency with those questions.

 

Financial Aid Impacts for changes to my enrollment:

Q: Am I eligible for financial aid for remote (online) learning?

A: Yes, you are eligible for federal, state and UM financial aid while you are enrolled in remote learning. You must still be enrolled for the required number of units (half-time or full-time, etc.) to be eligible.

Q: Am I eligible for financial aid if I decide to withdraw or can’t complete my spring 2020 classes?

A: Please contact the withdrawal coordinator (withdrawal@mso.umt.edu) before making modifications to your class schedule so we can assist you in making the most beneficial and informed decisions for your individual situation. 

If you are planning to officially withdraw from all of your Spring 2020 courses, please consult with your academic advisor and a withdrawal coordinator before doing so. Withdrawing from all courses can negatively affect the current Spring 2020 aid as well as future term aid eligibility. To contact the withdrawal coordinator, please email: withdrawal@mso.umt.edu

Students unable to complete the term due to direct impact by coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak may be advised to file for an appeal. This typically would occur if their academic progress was negatively impacted to an extent that it resulted in their not being able to meet the requirements of receiving various financial aid funding in future terms. Documentation will be requested. If you believe you may fall into this category please contact our office for more information.

Q: What if I have extra expenses caused by COVID-19?

A: If you need additional funding to purchase your flight home, or other COVID-19 related expenses, federal regulations permit us to increase your cost of attendance to allow for this additional educational expense. Typically for domestic students this increased COA is covered by an offer of either a federal subsidized/unsubsidized student loan or a parent PLUS loan depending on your remaining federal eligibility. If you would like to request a budget adjustment, please contact us from your UM student email at faid@mso.umt.edu to request the budget adjustment.

Q: What if my parent(s) are financially impacted by illness, work closure or other COVID-19 related financial hardships?

A: The U.S. Department of Education allows the Financial Aid Office to reassess your family’s ability to contribute to your educational expenses if their income has been impacted as a result of illness. Please contact our office from your UM student email at faid@mso.umt.edu to inquire about this process.

 

Q: Can I still contact the Financial Aid Office?

A: Yes! We are still here. Our phone number is: 406-243-5373 and our email is: faid@mso.umt.edu. If you are a student, please email from your UM student email. You can also Request a Zoom Appointment.

Q: Can I talk to a counselor one-on-one?

A: Yes! Our counselors will continue to be available for appointments which can be scheduled via Zoom or over the phone. Please call or email our office to request an appointment. When requesting your appointment please provide a brief summary of what your questions are regarding, so that we can ensure we schedule your appointment with the appropriate program specialist.

Q: Your office has requested I complete a form to complete my financial aid file. How can I get it to you?

A: Forms can always be submitted via your UM student email to faid@mso.umt.eduAfter ink signing the form, please scan or photograph the document and ensure it (and any required documentation) is formatted as a JPEG, PNG, or PDF file. If you decide to email documents as an attachment, we ask that you redact any sensitive information such as social security number or any other personal identifying information prior to scanning the attachment. 

You may also fax documents to 406-243-4930.

Q: Can I still get financial aid in the summer term?

A: Absolutely! We will continue to award and disburse financial aid as allowed by the Federal and Montana Departments of Education. As a reminder, most financial aid awards require at least half-time enrollment before dollars can disburse to student accounts.

Students interested in receiving summer aid need to submit the Summer Aid Application available on Cyberbear, following the instructions, and noting deadlines on the form. 

For more information on types of Summer Aid, visit our Summer Aid page.

Q: How will this affect Summer Work Study options?

A: For information on Summer Work Study, visit this page.

The Financial Aid Office and Global Engagement Office (GEO) are working closely based on daily updates on program cancellations. Once the Financial Aid Office receives official notification from the GEO we may need to adjust students’ financial aid packages. If this occurs you will be notified. As each financial aid package and student is different the impacts to financial aid, and your overall bill and aid eligibility may vary.

If the program has not yet started for the Spring 2020 Semester generally the aid package is canceled and notifications are sent.

If the program has started and the student is unable to complete the coursework remotely, the Student Accounts Office will complete the federal "Return to Title IV" calculation to see how much federal financial aid was earned based on the last date the student attended courses (This link provides information on the Return to Title IV calculation). The Student Accounts Office will send a notification if your financial aid and UM bill are updated.

Please allow up to 14 business days once the program is canceled to see the update to your financial aid package and billing statement

For questions about this process or your UM bill please contact withdrawal coordinator at: withdrawal@mso.umt.edu

Other UM updates related to COVID-19 are available at: https://www.umt.edu/coronavirus/default.php

Information will be updated as it becomes available.

We highly recommend that you setup direct deposit to receive refunds, if you have not done so already. Further information can be found here.

Community Resource information 

We have attempted to put together a community resources list for students who may need additional help or financial relief in response to the changes to their academic or living situation that have occurred as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. Please note that the University of Montana does not endorse any private offerings, but recognize the need that our students may encounter:

Internet

For those who have no access or limited access to the internet, a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreement states that providers will waive late fees, not cut off service for lack of payment, and open hot-spots. Below is a list of internet offers from various companies. Note that this list may not be comprehensive, but it is the latest list we have compiled on campus. We recommend reaching out to these entities or others that you work with to determine if you might qualify for any of their relief or assistance programs.  

AT&T: offers open hot-spots, unlimited data to existing customers, and $10/month plans to low-income families • Spectrum: offers free internet for 2 months • Comcast: offers free internet for 2 months to low-income families, plus all Xfinity hot-spots are free to the public during this time • Sprint: provides unlimited data to existing customers, and allows all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge • T-Mobile: unlimited data to existing customers, and, coming soon, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge

Storage

The University has limited on-campus storage available. We ask that you work to make other arrangements to store your belongings, if necessary. If you need to discuss storage, please call UM Housing at (406) 243-2611. Students with items currently in storage should contact the relevant on-call phone. We will grant you access to your storage unit as quickly as possible.

In addition to on-campus storage, many private storage options exist. Here are 2 companies offering storage deals for students:

  • Eagle Self Storage in Missoula is offering one-month free storage rental of a 5x10 unit to the first 40-50 individuals. This offer is only for UM college students with valid ID. The special runs through April 30, 2020. Contact Eagle Self Storage at (406) 251-8600 or visit www.eagless.net.
  • U-Haul will extend 30 days of free self-storage at U-Haul-owned and -operated facilities to help college students impacted by unforeseen schedule changes at their universities. The free month applies to new customers with college IDs and is a limited-time offer subject to availability. The offer also applies to usage of U-Box containers. Click on uhaul.com/storage to find the store nearest you.
Car Rentals

Companies like Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz are making it easier for students to get home to their families by reducing the age minimum and waiving the young renter fees for rentals.