Student loan borrowers stiffed by persistent government shutdown

Student loan borrowers stiffed by persistent government shutdown

Student loan borrowers stiffed by persistent government shutdown
January 17
00:45 2019

The new year is finally here and we’re already off to a precarious start as we officially approach the one month mark of our President’s most recent shenanigans.

The government shutdown has affected hundreds of thousands of people so far, putting a pause on federal agencies, freezing job positions nationwide and spreading a wave of general panic among those of us who actively participate in the government’s programs — a hefty chunk of whom are students.

Fortunately, our FAFSA funds are safe and will still be distributed for the Spring semester if already completed. However, if you’re in debt and need to start consolidating some of those loans in order to scrape by, it looks like you’re out of luck from now on until the border wall gets built.

Consolidation loan applications are currently on hold — pending applications will not be processed and new applications will not be accepted, according to The College Investor. Have questions about this or about your federal student aid? Unfortunately, your inquiries will remain unanswered until federal agencies are reinstated. Customer service can’t be attained through the Department of Education and the ombudsman office is closed, so any student loan-related grievances will be left unheard.

So, we can’t get ahold of anyone to help us ease our concerns about the latest hurdles in student loan debt. Is that the worst that could happen? Nope: not only are we now facing new obstacles in handling and paying off student loans, but luckily for Uncle Sam and his $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, credit bureaus and collections agencies happen to be independent entities. This means they are not affected by the government shutdown, and they will still hunt you down and find you if you have any delinquencies due.

I think we’re all aware that the IRS has been facing more major roadblocks since the shutdown has commenced, but what does it mean for students?

If you’ve ever completed a FAFSA application, you know that you’re required to enter quite a bit of tax information. The current state of the IRS has definitely caused some students to run into trouble completing their applications as IRS transcript requests have been left unfulfilled, and the IRS online data retrieval tool has been inoperable as of late.

A lot of students get flagged for verification after filling out a FAFSA application, which means they have to submit proof of income. Personally, my application has been flagged for verification every single year that I have applied for FAFSA. Every single year I have had to order a transcript through the IRS — a process that is extensive even outside of a partial government shutdown. Now that the IRS has closed its doors, obtaining the information necessary to receive federal aid has become increasingly difficult, to say the least.

Federal officials expected the tax transcript service to be back up and running Jan. 14, although operations have still slowed immensely.

It’s time to start thinking ahead as students. President Trump has publicly stated that he’s prepared for this shutdown to last as long it needs to until his demands are met, whether that be another month or even upwards of a year.

As unrealistic as that sounds, we’re already a month in — who is to say what else may catch fire in the meantime? Here’s hoping this is the worst we’ll have to face as students during the shutdown.

Featured Illustration: Shannon Quillman

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Chaia Brett

Chaia Brett

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