As colleges continue to raise tuition, paying for higher education is getting more difficult. This has led students to look for aid in order to finance their educations.
However, the recent United States government shutdown has caused some issues to federal aid for education. Even after the shutdown ended, students still have worries about the possible effects that might impact their federal aid.
Kasey Cordes, ’21, voiced concern for students who were affected by the shutdown.
“I personally filed the FAFSA early so it didn’t affect me, and disbursements are still in effect for those of us who did,” Cordes said. “But I can’t imagine the panic that students who were unable to file felt while the partial government shutdown was happening.”
The most recent government shutdown, which started Dec. 22, 2018, made history as the longest consecutive government shutdown in United States history. The duration of the shutdown reached a total of 34 days according to record.
During the shutdown, departments of the United States government were affected or could not run properly. Among the agencies, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education suffered noticeably.
This created concerns among students with family members working government jobs.
“Last year it messed up our family financially a bit because both my parents work for the government and weren’t getting paid,” said Kyleigh Cason, ’21.
The IRS was having issues with processing the income verification requests during the shutdown. These request are critical to the completion of government aid forms, and without proof of income, some students were not able to complete the forms and receive aid.
These critical problems were not caused by the shutdown, though. The IRS was having issues due to internal maintenance that was planned to happen before the shutdown went into effect, according to a Washington Post article.
These two agencies are important for college students who require aid to continue higher education.
With student concern rising and government agencies functioning below normal rates, schools were also going through some of their own issues.
Through the shutdown, the Department of Education has not been helpful in giving information about the verification of the FAFSA to the Allegheny College’s Office of Financial Aid.
“They (Department of Education) didn’t give exact guidance to which departments weren’t able to meet the request or run those checks,” said Natasha Eckart, associate director of financial aid.
Even with the Department of Education dealing with the effects of the shutdown, Eckart does not foresee any issues with aid being processed since the shutdown has ended.
“There is time to still work with the students now that the government has been reopened,” Eckart said.
Allegheny College is not alone in trying to make sure students have their concerns handled.
Bill Jaffee, press secretary for Sen. Pat Toomey, gave a statement on behalf of Toomey.
“Senator Toomey believes it’s time to ‘end government by crisis’ so citizens and federal government employees do not bear the brunt of Washington’s dysfunction,” Jaffee told The Campus in an email. “If any Pennsylvania student has an issue relating to the federal government, whether it’s student loans or another issue, Senator Toomey stands ready to assist them. Students can contact Senator Toomey’s Allentown office where they will be able to speak with a dedicated caseworker who can address their questions.”
Toomey is also continuing the fight in Congress through supporting the Shutdown Fairness Act and the End Government Shutdowns Act.
The Shutdown Fairness Act would transfer funds from the Department of Treasury in order to pay the 420,000 workers who would be left without a salary during a possible future shutdown. Contractors who work for federal agencies and who are classified as essential personnel would also be paid. For the IRS and the Department of Education, this bill means that the problems with processing aid during a shutdown are less likely to occur in the future.
The End Government Shutdowns Act would continue to provide federal agencies with continued funding if Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill or a continuing resolution on time, resulting in another government shutdown. Federal agencies will continue to be funded at their current levels for 120 days and will decrease by one percent every 90 days.
Both of these bills combined would help make sure the departments that take care of student aid can continue to function and students can continue their education even in the midst of another shutdown.