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FAFSA remains available despite government shutdown

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The government shutdown will affect how students apply for FAFSA, but financial aid will most likely not be denied for the 2019-2020 academic year.

As the days of the historic government shutdown continue to add up, more unexpected consequences have started to emerge — recently, many college students have been concerned about how the shutdown will impact the process of applying for federal financial aid. But the situation is not as drastic as it may seem.

While the Federal Student Aid office is open and students can still file their Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), students may encounter issues if they need to verify some of the tax forms required for their request.

According to the Federal Student Aid website, applicants must submit their most recent “federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned.”

Typically, the IRS would provide students with these forms, but the IRS website has been down for maintenance since December 31, and their offices remain closed because of the shutdown. This means students have to wait to submit their FAFSA, and some are concerned they will be barred from receiving financial aid as a result.

However, financial aid for the remainder of the 2018-19 school year will not be impacted by the shutdown. The Department of Education is fully funded until September 30 of this year thanks to legislation President Trump signed in September 2018. This funding will cover all federal student aid, including Pell grants, work-study and loans for the rest of the 2018-19 school year.

The only students who may encounter issues are those that have not yet filed their financial aid forms for the coming 2019-20 school years.

According to Ohio University’s financial aid website, Ohio University started accepting FAFSA for the 2019-20 school year on Oct. 1 of last year. While the priority consideration deadline was Tuesday, the final deadline for financial aid for Ohio University is not until June 30, 2020.

Valerie Miller, Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships at Ohio University, said that although students have not recently encountered problems with the actual FAFSA, they have had issues accessing some of their required tax forms.

“To date, the government shutdown has not impacted students’ ability to complete the FAFSA,” Miller said. “The FAFSA application and connected IRS Data Retrieval Tool have remained operational. The issues that we have heard from students are related to requests to the IRS for their 2016 and 2017 tax transcripts.”

There are still options for students that have yet to complete their applications. Miller said that since the IRS is currently unable to provide tax transcripts, the U.S. Department of Education has permitted educational institutions to accept signed copies of submitted federal tax forms rather than original copies.

Ultimately, students who were unable to submit their most recent forms due to these shutdowns will not be denied financial aid. Even if the shutdown continues for some time, financial aid applications will still be accepted for the 2019-2020 school year. Miller said admitted 2019-20 OU freshman will be awarded their financial aid staring on Feb. 18 of this year, and continuing students will start seeing financial aid on March 30.

In the meantime, any students who have questions about using signed copies of submitted federal tax forms rather than tax transcripts or other documents needed to verify FAFSA can contact the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships.

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