When it comes to helping her son Russel pay for college, Ana Termyna does whatever it takes.

“It’s gotten a little bit easier. As far as the payments at first in the beginning, the first year-and-a-half I had to take out loans, borrow from my mom,” she said. 

For many, affording a college degree became harder during the pandemic, but this unprecedented time has also been a catalyst for significant changes that could make higher education more affordable and student debt easier to manage.

“Many private schools whose enrollment was hurt by the pandemic are aggressively discounting tuition and fees to attract new students and retain current ones,” said Octavio Blanco of Consumer Reports.

A study showed that on average, undergraduates got a record 48% discount on tuition and fees in the form of scholarships, grants, and fellowships in the 2020-2021 school year from private schools. 

Also, Congress has given colleges a $36 billion pot of money to distribute in emergency financial grants — money you don’t have to pay back — to students hurt by the pandemic.

“This aid will help keep people in school who are struggling financially and prevent them from going deeper into debt. The exact criteria for eligibility will vary by school, so you should check with the financial aid office at your school to see how it works,” said Blanco. 

The pause on student loans was extended until the end of January. Also, the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March included a provision that makes all student loan forgiveness tax-free through 2025.

As for Ana, she can’t wait to see her son Russel accomplish his goal of becoming a physical therapist for athletes.

“That is my blessing for him, for him to reach that goal,” Termyna said.