For the next year, however, student loans will accumulate interest starting at graduation, ultimately ticking up total costs.
"This follows a pattern of changes to student aid that are probably not very clear and transparent to students," says Justin Draeger, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. "It doesn't decrease the amount of financial aid available to them to pay for college—but it does make college more expensive for them."
If you're unsure of how your federal aid will be affected for 2012-2013, contact your college's financial aid office, Draeger recommends. Financial aid counselors should be able to determine if you're still eligible for a Pell grant or may offer other alternatives if you'll have a gap in your college funds.
"We want to help them make the best decisions they can make, and usually not returning to school is not the one," says Susquehanna's Nunn. "That's the word we try to get out: We can strategize with them about what their options are and how to think about how they can get from the point where they are to graduation day."
Trying to fund your education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for College center.