Federal financial aid during the government shutdown

Published by , Author: Adam Zook - News Editor, Date: January 23, 2019

Slippery Rock University students who have not already filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) have been encouraged by university officials to apply despite the ongoing shutdown of several federal government agencies.

University director of financial aid and scholarships Alyssa Dobson clarified in a Jan. 17 press release that the office of financial aid will continue applying student’s FAFSA paperwork during the shutdown. She said that students loans and grant funds are not disrupted during this time. However, some federal agencies that are currently defunded also review portions of FAFSA, causing issues with the return process.

“Once submitted to our office, FAFSA will still get processed,” Dobson said. “FAFSA is sent to several government agencies for review, some of which are going without funding due to the government shutdown. FAFSA is still processed but has language stating that we cannot award financial aid through the document.”

This issue will not apply to most of the students who have already completed FAFSA in the past, Dobson said. She reiterated that first-time filers have information that needs to be processed by exterior government agencies, causing a delay in their financial aid.

Dobson said hindrances in the application process are entities like Selective Service, the federal agency responsible for maintaining information on military conscription. Federal law requires all men in the United States to register with Selective Service from the ages of 18 to 25-years-old. According to Dobson, Selective Services is unable to review FAFSA applications because of a lack of federal funding, slowing any government action.

Applications submitted prior to the government shutdown (Dec. 22) will not be affected, Dobson said. She clarified that applications requiring more information will be delayed and completed once the shutdown is over.

“The earlier the FAFSA is completed and submitted to the office of financial aid, the better off you will be,” Dobson said. “The office of financial aid will be sent new copies whenever the shutdown ends and defunded agencies are reopened. Students are not required to take additional steps.”

The Department of Education (DOE) remains fully funded during the shutdown and has taken steps to alleviate the issue of other agencies delaying the return process. Each year, about one-third of FAFSA filers are selected for verification. Dobson said the verification procedure is like an audit to verify whether or not the tax information provided is correct. With the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) receiving a lack of funds, the DOE amended their policy.

“Through the 2019-20 verification process, a signed 1040 income tax form will be excepted in lieu of the previously required IRS Tax Transcript,” Dobson said. “We’ve already sent out letters to all students with their verification outstanding that clarifies what forms they need to provide our office with. We were a little worried at first, so this was a real relief for us that students will still be able to get their financial aid.”

Dobson is optimistic about the measures that have been taken so far but is concerned about the possible overflow of applications that has been caused by the shutdown. She said that if federal agencies continue to go without funding into the 2019 fall semester, financial aid requests could possibly not be applied.

“We were thankful that the DOE responded to the problem so quickly, but the other issue for new FAFSA applicants needs to be cleared up,” Dobson said. “As long as the shutdown doesn’t continue into the fall, students will receive the federal aid they need.”

Further inquiries about financial aid should be directed to the office of financial aid and scholarships. Their office can be reached at 724-738-2044 or financial.aid@sru.edu.


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