Financial aid, research funding yet to be affected from shutdown

Oct. 1 marked the beginning of both a new fiscal year and a government shutdown caused by Congress’ disagreement on governmental budget, leaving many questioning what effects the shutdown could have on public universities, especially in the areas of financial aid and research funding.

At this point the University’s Office of Student Financial Aid has not been affected by the shutdown, and Director Dan Mann said he does not foresee any impacts in the near future.

“Most of the financial aid stuff has been set up so that it is still running and in place,” he said. “The reason for that is that the Department of Education itself is actually closed … but many of the financial aid processes are contracted out to other entities, and those are not impacted by the government shutdown.”

For example, he said that students who are filling out a FAFSA or trying to get a loan processed should not have any issues. Because these services are contracted outside of the government, those who review the applications and loans are not government employees and are not furloughed.

Mann said he does not expect to see severe impacts at the University in terms of student financial aid.

“For the most part, most students have completed the financial aid process and already have their fall financial aid,” Mann said. “For those still trying to complete that process, there’s nothing that should prevent them from getting that done at this point.”

Jonathan Lackland, the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s deputy director of advancement, external and government relations, said research funding at state institutions is one of the areas that may be hit the hardest if the shutdown lasts longer than a week.

However, Peter Schiffer, vice chancellor for Research, said in an email that University research activities under federal contracts, as well as already-awarded grants, will not initially be affected by the shutdown.

“Federal funding is complex, and different areas of the University handle different aspects of grant funding,” he said. “When we receive payment for these awards depends on the terms of the award itself.”

In the short term, no new grant awards or approvals can be made and no proposals can be processed, Schiffer said.

Agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health have already been affected. The NSF website is currently unavailable, and visitors are only able to see an outage notice that includes guidance for their proposer and awardee community. Meanwhile, NIH released a notice advising applicants not to submit proposals during the shutdown.

“In the longer term, there may be a delay in payments from the federal government to the campus, but it is premature to speculate about the implications since we do not know how long this will last,” Schiffer added.

At this point, Lackland said federally funded programs at state universities must wait to see how long the shutdown lasts in order to discover what the bigger implications of it may mean for them.

“A lot of people are just taking this one day at a time, literally, just to see that … we don’t move into a week or extend (the shutdown) past a week, where we have to even consider what the dramatic impacts will be,” Lackland said. “Everyone hopes that Congress will resolve this quickly so that the shutdown doesn’t further hamper our institutions in Illinois.”

Eleanor can be reached at [email protected]