In a move intended to help college students who’ve lost their jobs during the pandemic, the Education Department wrote financial aid administrators on Friday, reminding them they have the discretion to consider special circumstances in deciding whether students are eligible for federal student aid.

And the department “encourages aid administrators to consider the special circumstances that may arise for students and families during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, especially as they relate to unemployment or reduction in work,” said a letter from Annmarie Weisman, who is temporarily performing the duties of the deputy assistant secretary for postsecondary policy, planning and innovation.

In addition, Weisman acknowledged that financial aid administrators may be reluctant to use their discretion based on professional judgment to grant aid because they could come under review by the department for approving too many.

Weisman said awards given based on professional judgment will not be a factor in whether the department puts them under review.