Written by Ezra Ekman
While the longest government shutdown in U.S. history now has ended with a three-week reprieve, it’s possible that this is only a temporary fix. Financial aid processing delays and alternative verification methods have raised concerns for some students’ ability to continue through the spring semester. However, while some issues related to the shutdown aren’t yet resolved, FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) isn’t one of them.
United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated in a Sept. 25, 2018, memorandum “Programs with mandatory funding can make obligations and payments during a shutdown. Examples of such programs include Pell Grants and Federal Student Loans.”
FRCC’s Financial Aid office had some good news about whether the shutdown impacted students: as of today it has not. The Department of Education ran as usual, according to Financial Aid. Students were not able to request their IRS return transcripts due to the government shutdown, but the Department of Education since made a statement that schools could accept tax returns instead.
Financial Aid also confirmed that there would not be delays for spring disbursement of financial aid, nor for 2019-2020 FAFSA applications. FAFSA verified that, as far as they knew, the Department of Education’s processing of applications has not been affected. This includes all FAFSA funding, including Pell grants, federal loans, and work study. Still, FAFSA did warn that there may be some indirect impacts.
The IRS normally verifies income reported in FAFSA applications. Since IRS tools were down for maintenance, this hasn’t been possible to do during the shutdown. Male students between the ages of 18 and 25 also have to register with Selective Service, so it’s possible that delays in Selective Service verification may affect younger students.
FRCC has another way for income verification: the Financial Aid department can use your 2017 Form 1040 tax return. Students who were exempt from filing taxes in 2017 can get a signed document verification of non-filing from a tax preparer for those who didn’t meet income requirements to file.
FAFSA continuing to process applications and disburse financial aid doesn’t mean there are no remaining concerns for students, however.
Laura Wurzburger, a TRIO student, said, “I get a stipend from the VA depending on how many credit hours I’m taking and what my percentage of disability is. I don’t know if I’m going to get a check in February. If the VA didn’t get all the paperwork processed, I know my financial aid is in there. I use it for supplies and things. But I depend on that check to, you know, live.”
FRCC Veteran Services Advisor Jeramey Reamer was confident about veteran students benefits.
“The VA is one of the few government institutions that is fully funded despite the government shutdown,” Reamer said. “Front Range Veteran Services has stayed proactive to ensure its students have experienced as little hardship as possible”.
The government shutdown has had impacts, but one thing eligible students can still count on is their ability to receive financial aid this semester.