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State colleges pledge support to furloughed federal workers

January 16, 2019

As the partial federal government shutdown approaches its fifth week, impacted students, faculty and staff may find some measure of relief from the state’s Connecticut State Colleges and Universities.

System president President Mark Ojakian on Wednesday announced he is asking the state’s 17 colleges and universities that are under the Board of Regents umbrella temporarily suspend requesting tuition payments from impacted students. The system is also looking to help students address the cost of books, transportation, and other social service needs that impact their enrollment and success.

“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,” Ojakian said.

There was no immediate indication of how many federal employees and dependents are enrolled among the 84,000 students in the system, according to Leigh Appleby, a spokesman for the system. It was also unclear how much delaying tuition collection might impact the system’s already fragile financial condition.

Beyond federal workers and their dependants, Ojakian said the shutdown’s impact on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could make it harder for some students to complete financial aid forms.

“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,” Ojakian said. “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.”

Though Pell Grant and Direct Loan funding is reportedly unaffected at this time, Ojakian said he expects it may be difficult for students and institutions to confirm eligibility for these resources.

Students will have to sign a document affirming that they are financially affected by the shutdown and will resume payment when the federal government reopens.

The Board of Regents, which is losing students and state financial support, is bracing for still more cuts in the coming years with an infusion of $70 million over the next two fiscal years.

lclambeck@ctpost.com; twitter/lclambeck