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Loyola Announces New Financial Aid Assistance Program Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Zack Miller | The PhoenixThe Loyola Commitment is a new financial aid program to help students who are facing economic hardship as a result of COVID-19.

Last month, Loyola officials announced The Loyola Commitment — a financial aid initiative for current and prospective students facing economic hardships amid the current pandemic.

The initiative — which came out of a COVID-19 “working group” of Loyola administrators for student recruitment and retention — is intended to help families who have been negatively financially impacted by the pandemic, according to Tobyn Friar, the committee’s co-chair and the Financial Aid office director at Loyola.

“We really wanted to focus on tuition, room and board, the cost of a Loyola education,” Friar said. “That really is the focus of The Loyola Commitment: that finances isn’t the reason a student may end up transferring or taking time off.”

Friar said the committee referenced a similar program Loyola launched in 2008 during the recession: The Loyola Promise. Now students and families are facing much of the same financial implications, including job loss and reduced income, so Loyola has “dusted that old policy off” to apply to current circumstances, prioritizing highest need students first.

After a student seeks out all available financial aid options — such as filling out the 2020-21 FAFSA and applying for federal loans — they can turn to The Loyola Commitment via a Special Circumstance Appeal form. 

Friar said there technically isn’t a set dollar amount or set number of students who can receive aid. For example, he said The Loyola Promise, the previous iteration of the program, helped almost 300 students over the course of four or five years. Since The Loyola Commitment was announced in mid-May, 26 families have applied so far through the Special Circumstances Appeal, he said.

This is because The Loyola Commitment is funded through Loyola’s “internal resources” such as endowments, or gift funds that are available and alumni and donor contributions — unlike the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which is a $5 million grant from the federal government to help offset students’ expenses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent campus closures.

The Special Circumstance Appeal form and supporting documentation must be submitted at least four weeks prior to the end of the term, but Friar said this program itself doesn’t have a deadline — similarly to The Loyola Promise, which began in 2008 and was phased out in 2014. He said it went on for several years because of the impact the financial crisis had on families, so it’s “important for us to not put a deadline on [The Loyola Commitment] because the impacts could be long term.” While a student or parent may have employment now, he said, in three or four months from now that could drastically change.

“This is such a unique hardship … it’s so hard to know what some of the downstream effects are going to be,” Friar said. “This is just the beginning of financial impacts on families.”

The Loyola Commitment will be evaluated on a term-by-term basis. This means a family who receives help in the fall will be re-evaluated for the spring semester, in hopes the student or parent is re-employed or in an improved situation.

According to a May 15 school-wide announcement by the provost and chief academic officer, Norberto Grzywacz, “The Loyola Commitment will help resource additional aid for direct educational costs for graduate and undergraduate students whose personal and/or family contribution to their educations has been severely compromised. This Commitment is funded by the University and fortified by the generosity of Loyola alumni and donors.”

A previous version of this article referred to Tobyn Friar as associate director of financial aid at Loyola, Friar is the Financial Aid office director.

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