While some students are having trouble getting tax documents required for federal loans and aid because of the U.S. government shutdown, a spokesman from Student Financial Services says they’re working with students to avoid major problems.
“The biggest obstacle for students right now is getting their tax documents verified,” said Jordan Grant, director of Student Financial Services, talking about the government shutdown that is now stretching into its second week.
“Even if they are otherwise totally eligible, we can’t award them grants or loans until we receive the OK from the federal part,” he said.
Grant said some students haven’t received a financial aid award letter because they can’t get tax documents verified online.
Normally, Grant said students could fix this by requesting a tax transcript from the
Internal Revenue Service. But this has been difficult since 90 percent of the 94,000 IRS employees have been furloughed.
“Since they’re not there to answer the phone, students are left with an incomplete file and an uncertain future,” Grant said.
Grant said less than 10 students are experiencing problems retrieving their tax documents.
If a student doesn’t pay tuition on time, there’s a 1.25 percent late fee, and he or she can’t register or get official transcripts.
Currently, SFS is waiving students’ late fees if their financial aid is late because of the government shutdown.
“The number of students we have allows us to respond in ways that are different from how large public colleges might,” Grant said. “We can help.”
At SPU, 65 percent of undergraduate students have federal loans, according to a 2012 survey by the U.S. Department of Education. Thirty-one percent of students receive federal Pell Grants.
Grant noted the loans are a source of income for the government, even if they’re a small part of the overall budget compared to taxes or other revenues sources.
A 2013 Congressional Budget Office report projected revenue of $173 billion from student loans during the next 10 years.
Grant also said the amount of federal student loans and aid available to students next year would be determined if and when Congress and President Barack Obama agree on a budget.
However, federal loans are not a source of contention like healthcare or raising the debt ceiling.
Bill Kauppila, a clinical instructor in the School of Business and Economics, said, historically, Democrats and Republicans have both supported student loans and aid.
“The government wants an educated population that is able to think for themselves,” Kauppila said.
“Everyone in the government acknowledges the need for federal loans,” he said. “The problem here is that they’re disagreeing on everything else.”
Kauppila experienced effects of the government shutdown firsthand when he scheduled an IRS special agent to speak in his federal income taxation class.
“[The agent] said that he could only go out on critical assignments for the time being,” Kauppila said. “Obviously, my students weren’t considered critical enough.”