How The Government Shutdown Affects Collegiate Women

When Congress fails to pass legislation required to fund governmental operations and agencies, the government enters a process called a government shutdown. On December 22, 2018, the US government shutdown after Congress and President Trump could not agree on funding for the 2019 fiscal year or come to a temporary resolution that would allow them to continue talks. As a result, nine executive departments had to shut down partially or fully, which affected approximately a quarter of the government’s activities and directly costed the American economy billions of dollars.

On January 25, 2019, after the longest government shutdown in history, Trump agreed to reopen the government for three weeks until February 15 to allow for notifications. However, he threatened to shut the government down again or declare a national emergency and use military funding to build the border wall if it did not receive its funding.  

bird's-eye view of sitting on bench while discussion

Now, in the aftermath of the government shutdown, as college students begin to look into how much federal aid they’ll receive, they are realizing it may be less than they thought. When completing the FAFSA, some students discovered they needed additional information from the IRS, but were not able to access those documents during the shutdown. While the FAFSA form and the division of government responsible for Federal Student Aid were never shutdown, the IRS departments necessary to provide definitive financial aid requirements and estimates were. The Department of Education continued to reassure students that Federal Student Aid was not affected by the shutdown and encouraged them to continue to fill out their FAFSAs and make payments on students loans as usual.  

However, the extended period of uncertainty drastically affected many students. When students were unable to access their original tax documentation, many were forced to face an uncertain reality: would they be able to continue with their education? Or would they be forced to take time off, to work? While many schools attempted to work with their students, offering to accept signed W2 forms and tax documents other than the original transcripts, there were schools that left students uncertain of their futures.

person writing tax on white printer paper

The government shutdown’s effect reaches far beyond government workers. While some of those workers will receive backpay, many will not. People who are on disability, social security or unemployment were also impacted by the shutdown. If the struggle with the government shutdown continues, Congress will have its work cut out for its delegates as they work through student financial aid.