Government shutdown could soon affect financial aid applications, University of Texas research

Chase Karacostas

The government shutdown could affect federal student financial aid applications and, down the line, federally funded research projects at UT-Austin.

The federal Department of Education oversees FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and is unaffected by the shutdown, but the Internal Revenue Service, which provides some of the forms required for FAFSA is mostly shuttered.

The majority of students submitting their FAFSA will not need any forms from the IRS. However, the small percentage of students who are required to complete the additional verification need a copy of their family’s income tax transcript from the IRS. 

While the department is closed, students are allowed to send in a signed tax return until the government reopens.

Throughout the application, there are also several “matches” that occur to determine a student’s eligibility to receive financial aid, such as a citizenship match or registration with the Selective Service, required for males 18-25. These matches, which come through the Department of Homeland Security and the Selective Service System, are not functional under the shutdown. As a result, UT’s Office of Financial Aid said it is manually determining matches to verify each student’s eligibility for financial aid.

“While OFA is prioritizing the work on files for impacted students, these workarounds do have the potential to delay students’ receipt of their financial aid funds,” UT’s Office of Financial Aid said in a statement. “We are collaborating closely with Student Accounts Receivable, which is ready to assist affected students with payment plans or other options as needed.”

University spokeswoman Shilpa Bakre said in an email that the impact on continuing students would be limited, but it could be felt more so by prospective students.

A dozen federal departments that support research at UT are closed because of the shutdown, meaning the federal government is not issuing new awards for research. UT is unable to collect reimbursement for grant expenditures and reviews for grant proposals have been halted. Affected departments include the National Endowment for the Humanities, NASA and the National Science Foundation. UT has 350 active accounts with the NSF.

“I want to express my sympathy to those colleagues who are waiting to learn the fate of their submitted proposals,” Daniel Jaffe, vice president for research, said in an email to researchers. “We all believe strongly in our mission to produce and share new knowledge and to educate the next generation of researchers and scholars. The disruption that the current shutdown is not furthering that mission.”

For now, the University is covering the costs under existing grants without reimbursement.

“If the shutdown continues long term, it is possible that the University would no longer be able to sustain spending without reimbursement,” Bakre said in an email. “If that happens, it would have campus-wide impact — but it does not yet.”


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