Blog

Your Student Loans and the Government Shutdown

  This whole government shutdown mess is one of those on-going teachable moments my wife and I are so familiar with when dealing with two occasionally crying toddler boys.  As I like to say to my four- and two-year old toddlers when they do something that hurts the other (which usually involves somebody bumping or grabbing the other brother), “What did we learn from that?”

Watching the news and seeing the shenanigans play out inside the Beltway that is Washington, I see plenty of these teachable moments.

I could go on and rant and rave. I could yell at the top of my lungs or call the other guy “stupid” or “crazy” or some other more nasty names.  I could cry “it’s not fair” which is now a favorite expression of Spencer, my four-year old. I could whine and throw a tantrum until I get my way or not take ‘yes’ for an answer. But I’m not getting paid to be a congressman – unfortunately … (good benefits, a pension and $175,000 per year which is not bad for acting like a two-year old).  And my toddlers don’t have access to any microphones anyway.

So like the Big Bad Wolf my kids read about at night, all my huffing and puffing is not going to blow any brick houses or Capitols or White Houses down. And at least when I lay down the law and say “Stop That!” more often than not my two boys listen.

What the Shutdown Means for Colleges and Students

But let’s try to figure out what all of this nonsensical, self-induced government funding crisis means for your student’s financial aid.

Since employees at the Department of Education are “non-essential” they won’t be at work throughout this latest installment of political theater.  Otherwise, the impact should be minimal – thank goodness for the internet – according to a post on September 27 by James Runcie, Chief Operating Officer, Federal Student Aid.  Customer contact service centers are expected to remain open (1-855-FSA-4-FAA or 1-855-372-4322).  Online loan requests will continue to be processed.  Student-facing operations are expected to continue while delays are to be expected for many several behind-the-scene operations.

In the event of a closure of the federal government (more commonly referred to as a shutdown or furlough), there will be minimal impact on schools, lenders, and guaranty agencies and their ability to administer the Title IV Programs. While our federal offices would be closed during a federal government closure, the majority of our Title IV processors, contact centers, and Web sites will remain operational. In this announcement, we provide operational guidance about Federal Student Aid’s communications, customer service contact centers, processing systems, and training events should a federal government shutdown occur.  – James Runcie

The main financial aid processing website indicates as much in a message appearing on its main page.

Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) lenders and loan guaranty agencies will continue to process applications.  Direct Loan consolidation applications will continue to be processed at the Direct Student Loan website.  Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) System will be operational and continue to send schools funds.  The Student Loans and Teaching Grant websites will remain up and working.

FAFSA on the Web is functioning and students may also continue to get access to the system for their PINs and Student Aid Reports (SARs).

And of course, if you have a student loan that’s in repayment mode, you’ll have to continue to pay.  Shutdown or not, you and I don’t get any waiver on that front.  Maybe the mail carrier’s creed should be modified to include government shutdowns because they’re still delivering the bills and your checks. And there’s always bill pay on the web, right?