Government shutdown delays financial aid for some Lowcountry students

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -Some college students are struggling to apply for and receive financial aid as the longest government shutdown in history continues.

Students filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, are required to submit documents from the IRS.

But the government shutdown has made it impossible for students to access some of the documents they need.

“Students and families working through the process of financial aid at the colleges where they’ve been accepted for fall 2020 are having some issues,” Citadel spokesperson Kimberly Keelor said. “It may be slower getting their FAFSA, getting access to the IRS tax information they need.”

Those challenges are causing a lot of stress for Lowcountry college students.

“How much do I have to pay," Charleston Southern University senior Brandon Morton said. "You know, it’s kind of that uncertainty of not really knowing, not really having a sure answer.”

Schools across the Lowcountry have students, both current and incoming, who are affected by this, but most institutions are working with the students to navigate financial aid during the shutdown.

Last week, the Department of Education informed schools that students could use in-lieu-of documents to account for information not available due to the shutdown.

“We did not receive guidance until Wednesday that those students could submit tax returns to us as documentation, so the shutdown did cause delays in providing aid to some students,” Charleston Southern University spokesperson Jenna Johnson said. “The good news is that they are still receiving aid and we’re still able to receive money from the government,” Johnson said.

But Charleston Southern University’s Director of Financial Aid Teri Karges said she is worried the news from the Department of Education came a little too late.

“I think at that point, some students may have just kind of written it off that they couldn’t get what they needed to get to return to school," Karges said.

But the problems don’t stop there.

If students do not come back to school because they did not get the aid they needed, they could be leaving with a balance.

That means even more issues moving forward.

“If they’ve got a balance, they can’t move on to another school, get their transcript," Karges said. "And that’s a big concern because the student has stopped their education goal. And we don’t want that, obviously, no school wants that.”

But Morton said stopping his educational goal isn’t an option because he has come too far for that.

“You know, I’m so close to finishing now, so I don’t want this to be a money issue or a government shutdown or something to hold me back from unlocking my full potential," Morton said.

The government shutdown is not impacting financial aid for any students who are currently enrolled at the College of Charleston, according to spokesperson Mike Robertson.

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