Government Shutdown Affects Financial Aid, Veterans
On October 1, the nation saw the United States government furlough an estimated 800,000 federal employees and begin closing down the Department of Education, Internal Revenue Services (IRS), the Environmental Protection Agency, national parks and museums, and other federal programs and agencies.
“The impact to the college and higher education will be modest to minimal for the first week,” wrote Director of Governmental Relations Julie Garver in an email to The Evergreen State College staff. “If the shutdown were to extend beyond this… we are concerned that there could be impacts to financial aid, research, and other federally funded programs.”
Over 80 percent of Evergreen students receive some form of financial aid, and over half of those students receive the federally funded Pell Grant. “Most students, by now, have gotten their financial stuff in order, and would have received their fall funds,” commented Tracey Hall, director of financial aid at Evergreen. Students that have been admitted late in the summer, or have not turned in their documentation yet, may have some issues. “I couldn’t even begin to approximate [the number of students affected],” Hall said, “but I imagine it would be very few. Overall, the impact right now is extremely minimal.”
While the federal Pell Grant and loan programs are funded by the government, Hall stated that any students who rely on these funds should not have to worry, because those programs “are forward funded, which means they’ve already been appropriated for this year.” Other federal programs, like Trio Student Support Services, should not be affected by the shutdown. Evergreen Business Services commented that they see no foreseeable issues with “drawing down”, or pulling funds from the already-appropriated pool, money for these programs in the near future. Federal work study programs on campus are also not being affected at the moment.
Hall also mentioned that there could be some issues with tax forms and the IRS. “Right now, we are unclear about the services the IRS can really offer. They’re accepting electronic requests, but if it’s anything on paper, they of course can’t do it. Local IRS offices are closed.” While this will not affect electronic Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms, this will prevent some students from being verified for financial aid. “But in most or all of these cases, if students are experiencing difficulties during the shutdown, the college can offer them emergency loan funds,” Hall concluded.
Veterans on Campus
Many services for veterans have not been shut down, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. This includes military sexual trauma counseling, readjustment counseling services, and the crisis line. If the shutdown continues through November, though, “claims processing and payments and the compensation of pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation, will be suspended when the funding is exhausted,” said Randy Kelley, the director of veteran affairs on campus. Currently, Evergreen serves around 542 service members, including active duty members and veterans.
“The biggest effect this is having right now is information wise, as far as we are concerned in this office,” Kelley continued, including not processing Freedom of Information Act requests, not processing Privacy Act requests, and websites not being updated.
“We will work with veterans the best we can, to do anything we can to keep veterans in school,” Kelley said. “The problem is going to be, of course, not just keeping them in school, but the cost of living. If it gets bad enough, they might end up with having to drop out of school, just to maintain their household.”
Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) has also been affected by the government shutdown. “On base, we have stores, grocery stores, post exchange. I’m guessing that these commissaries are starting to slow down, limited in the number of products they can sell,” said Kelley, also explaining how many of the welfare and recreation programs for active duty members and veterans, on and off base, is down. “Any sanity that was put into the base will shut down,” he concluded.
Josh Henderson, a senior and employee of the Veterans Affairs office, is a current active member of the National Guard. “Drill got canceled this month, because of the government shutdown,” Henderson said. “The National Guard is not going to work this month. It has definitely affected me that way.” Because the drill was canceled, the National Guard will not receive pay this month. “[That money] is a nice cushion for me, because I don’t live on campus, I have my own place. But right now my benefits are still good, as far as I know. So far, it has just started, so nothing is serious yet. Only time will tell if things will get really bad or not.”
By Ray Still