The longest government shutdown in U.S. history ended on Jan. 25, 2019, when President Trump signed a bill to reopen the government for three weeks despite being refused funding for the promised border wall. This three-week period was intended to allow furloughed employees to return to work and receive compensation while negotiations continue.
Legislation was introduced on Feb. 13, just two days before the three-week period was scheduled to end, that would allocate $1.4 billion for a 55-mile barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border and prevent another shutdown. Congress approved the funding bill on Feb. 14.
During the record 35-day shutdown, students across the nation were unable to retrieve documents from the IRS by their school’s financial aid deadline.
“As far as [GGC] students go, there was very little impact,” Janice Balte, Associate Director of Financial Aid, said. “This semester, 618 students were dropped from late or no payment, and from that, 214 of those students were reinstated the next week. There were about 12 students who may have had problems retrieving government issued documents in time.”
First-time students and current students renewing their financial aid were affected the most. When completing the application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) some students found they needed additional verification material from the IRS. Unfortunately, the IRS had shut down the Data Retrieval Tool, which gives students access to additional documents. This led to some students withdrawing from school.
“The Department of Education shared with us in early December that they were planning on changing the requirement to use tax return transcripts. “They did not accept tax returns until January 9th,” said Kimberly Jordan, Executive Director of Financial Aid Services. “We had been anxiously awaiting that change, and many assumed that the government shutdown would push that change to happen. When it did, our staff started calling those students who needed to submit tax documents.”
GGC students who had not obtained documents or finished registering were called and emailed multiple times.
“We did a lot of outreach, made a lot of phone calls,” Balte said. “Even the day before the drop, we were calling students, telling them what they need to do.”
Despite these efforts, there wasn’t a lot the financial aid office could do for students during the shutdown.
“Many times, we can offer suggestions, but there wasn’t anything we could offer,” Balte said. “Not being able to get the tax return transcript meant we couldn’t award them aid. That meant that there were students who were looking at the possibility of not being able to attend school for the semester. I met with one student and their mom, and there wasn’t anything we I could do other than take their name and phone number and call when we were finally able to take the tax returns.”
Federal student loan servicers are still up and running, so students can still make all of their loan payments and receive customer service if they have questions. However, consolidation loan applications are currently on hold, so pending loan consolidation applications through FedLoan Servicing won’t be completed. Furthermore, they are not currently accepting new applications.
“Students who met the deadline of December 1 had no problems since it was well before the shutdown. The government shutdown, I would say overall, had no impact on GGC and our ability to deliver aid to our students,” Balte said.
Despite the government shutdown, there was a lower number of students who were dropped because of unfulfilled applications or missing paperwork in 2019.
“Last year we dropped about 824, and we dropped about 200 less this year,” Jordan said.
This is partially due to the financial aid office working to communicate with students, so they know what options they have regarding financing.
“We work really hard to make sure students get educated on other options,” Balte said.
For help applying for or understanding financial aid awards, Balte encourages students to talk with the financial aid office.
“We would like to at least meet with them and talk with them and see what we could do to help them,” Balte said. “We would love for them to come by our office and see what we could do for them.”