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Government shutdown impacts financial aid process at ETSU

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) - East Tennessee State University officials confirmed Thursday that there are a select number of students currently feeling the impact of the federal government shutdown.

How?

Financial Aid Director at ETSU, Catherine Morgan, explained that when students apply for financial aid, there are a select few who have to go through a verification process with the IRS.

The IRS is currently not able to provide students with the information they need due to the shutdown.

"When students complete their FAFSA, some of them are selected for a verification, which is kind of like an audit of information they put on FAFSA, and part of that process is submitting tax return transcripts from the IRS...with the government being shutdown, the IRS is not able to provide this information to a small population of students and parents, so that is, in essence, stopping them from the process to getting financial aid," Morgan said.

Morgan said they've identified around 150 students who are currently in this situation and have already started to contact them.

"Yesterday we identified the students, and then we went through each one to see where they were in that process and was this the only document they were missing," Morgan said.

Morgan said there is a way around the this for students only missing that one document, the tax return transcript.

"The Department of Education sent out some guidance yesterday late afternoon and advised institutions we are now allowed to accept signed copies of tax returns in lieu of the tax return transcript from the IRS, so we are going to be communicating that to our students that if you saved a copy of your tax return of what you submitted to the IRS, bring that in, a signed copy, and we can complete your process," Morgan said.

ETSU officials also stated they have not yet purged students from Spring classes due to non-payment.

"Our drop for non-payment is tomorrow, so we will be working to hold students over, if they choose, and want to be held over from this drop for non-payment until we can complete this process, and then we will have a second drop for non-payment...I think that's the 27th, and that gives us time to process their application and get the documents in, so that way they don't lose their classes," Morgan said.

Morgan said they will be sending out an e-mail to all students Thursday to ensure they are updated as to how the shutdown is impacting the financial aid process.

Morgan added that this is something that's impacting universities across the country, "it's every institution that participates in the federal aid process...and you know without the guidance that the department of education had given us yesterday, this issue would probably be a lot worse because students wouldn't have an alternative to turn something in, they would just be in limbo, and we wouldn't have an answer." 

For more information about ETSU's financial aid process, you can click on this link.


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