How does a government shutdown affect Sac State students?

Financial aid may be delayed for students still applying for FAFSA

Sac State students wait in line for the bursar's office at Lassen Hall in 2010. Anita Kermes, financial aid director, has promised support for students unable to finish filling out their financial aid applications for the Spring 2019 semester due to a government shutdown.

Becky Bell - The State Hornet

Sac State students wait in line for the bursar’s office at Lassen Hall in 2010. Anita Kermes, financial aid director, has promised support for students unable to finish filling out their financial aid applications for the Spring 2019 semester due to a government shutdown.

Cory Jaynes, digital editor

Sacramento State students are preparing for the spring semester amid a standoff in Washington, D.C. that has led to a partial government shutdown and a freeze on some federal funding.

President Donald Trump told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, in a Friday meeting that the shutdown could last “months or even years,” if Trump did not receive over $5 billion to fund the construction of a wall on the U.S. southern border.

As a result of the shutdown, 800,000 federal employees have been sent home or made to work without pay.

Anita Kermes, Sac State director of financial aid and scholarships, said that currently, the largest issue for students comes from the need to submit a tax return transcript from the IRS, which is currently closed, in order to receive financial aid through FAFSA.

Kermes said students facing this issue should see if they are eligible to receive the information using the data retrieval tool on their FAFSA applications. For those ineligible, Kermes suggested requesting their transcript by mail using a 4506-T form available on the Sac State website.

Kermes said that students should complete all forms required to receive financial aid and inform the Student Service Center that they are waiting on forms from the IRS.

“We will be able to place a fee deferment on the student’s account to delay tuition payment until the financial aid office receives further guidance or the IRS is back up and operational,” Kermes said.

April Hughes, a sociology major at Sac State, said she’s concerned about how the shutdown will affect caring for her daughter and epileptic husband.

“We’re safe this month but what about next month?” Hughes said. “I need this [tax] return to help pay back rent and help cover books and such.”

Hughes said without the tax return, she’ll have to go without food.

“I could hardly afford to rent the books last semester, now I’m terrified of even checking the list,” Hughes said. “I haven’t really eaten in days, we don’t have active health insurance, all of our money goes to life-saving [anti-epileptic] medicine and food for our daughter.”

Russel Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters Monday that the Trump administration would diverge from past administrations and begin to pay tax returns.

Kermes said that students filing for FAFSA may also be affected if the online application is unable to access federal databases to confirm information entered. Those include the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and, if the student is male, the Select Service System, which maintains information on everyone subject to the draft.

According to Kermes, students should be able to supply the needed information if the database match does not go through, but should see a financial aid counselor if it does not.

“In all situations, we are doing our best to keep staff informed of the latest developments and prepare them to assist our students that may be impacted by the shutdown,” Kermes said.

Kermes said that disbursement for students who have already completed their applications will be unaffected by the shutdown.

According to Kermes, the issues are affecting 70 students transferring to Sac State for the upcoming spring semester. However, if the shutdown continues, Kermes said it could affect more students next fall.

Elizabeth Chapin, California State University public affairs manager, said that the shutdown would not directly affect the CSU system as Department of Education funding had already been approved prior. According to Chapin, however, the shutdown could affect research funding on a campus to campus basis.

Lisa Hammersley, Sac State College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics associate dean, said that she knew of no research funding that had yet been affected. However, Hammersley said that the shutdown affected students working with the U.S. Geological Survey office housed on campus.

Kevin Cornwell, chair of the Geology Department, has not yet responded to requests for comment.