Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) President Mark Ojakian has announced new efforts to mitigate the effects of the partial federal government shutdown on students, faculty, and staff. While the effects on the college and university system so far have been limited in scope, a prolonged shutdown could adversely impact the ability of federal employees and their dependents – particularly those employed by the United States Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Bureau of Prisons – to pay tuition and other higher education expenses. In addition, the closure of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could make obtaining records necessary for certain students to complete financial aid more difficult.

In a letter to campus chief executives, President Ojakian directed colleges and universities to temporarily suspend tuition payments until the conclusion of the shutdown. The full text of the President’s letter is below:

Dear Campus Leaders,

As the partial government shutdown approaches its fifth week, we have a responsibility to ensure the students, faculty, and staff affected by furloughs, lost wages, and an absence of necessary federal services continue to receive the quality education, resources, and supports they deserve.

While the effects of the shutdown – at least on the CSCU system – have so far been limited, if a solution isn’t reached in short order, there is potential for real harm in a number of ways.

First, there is a high likelihood that students who are federal employees or dependents thereof will face cash flow problems as a result of missed paychecks. Second, despite recent flexibility provided between the IRS and Federal Student Aid, the closure of the IRS has the potential to make filing for financial aid more difficult for certain incoming students, particularly at our community colleges.  Though Pell Grant and Direct Loan funding is unaffected at this time and we expect processing to resume as soon as the government reopens, it may be difficult for students and institutions to confirm eligibility for these resources.

As colleges and universities, we should do everything in our power to make sure we are not adding undue stress at an already difficult time. That’s why I am requesting that tuition payments for impacted students be temporarily suspended until the conclusion of the shutdown. In addition, I am asking that campus administrators work with students to address the cost of books, transportation, or other social service needs that impact their enrollment and success.

Colleges and universities should ask that students sign a document affirming that they are financially affected by the shutdown and will resume payment when the federal government reopens.  We can provide a sample if needed.

We must recognize that the federal shutdown has potential to cause real pain for our some of our students, our staff and their families, and we as educational leaders must do everything in our power to help wherever we can. And above all, we must treat those harmed with compassion and respect.

We will continue to monitor the situation and work with you to address any future impacts. Please let me know if additional challenges for students or employees comes to your attention. 

Thank you for your support in this important endeavor.