US students feel financial pinch from government shutdown

World | 25 Jan 2019 1:58 pm

A growing number of colleges and universities are postponing tuition payments, waiving late fees and providing emergency grants to students whose finances have been tied up by the longest government shutdown in history.

In New York, Connecticut and Nevada, statewide college systems have agreed to delay payments for students who are federal employees or rely on family members in federal jobs. At least 20 other schools have made similar offers as they scramble to keep students from dropping out amid the financial pinch.

Most of the offers come from schools along the East Coast and other areas with heavy numbers of federal employees, including Denver and Detroit. The help ranges from flexible payment plans to cash grants that can be used on food, utilities, gas and other expenses.

At Wayne State University in Detroit, an area with more than 15,000 federal jobs, students affected by the shutdown are eligible for grants of up to US$1,500 and can enter tuition plans with no upfront payments and no interest, options that are typically reserved for the school’s low-income students.

"We wanted to make sure students knew early on we were right there beside them,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president of enrollment at the public school of 27,000 students. "Maybe they need rent money or money for transportation. We can help with that.”

Officials at Southern New Hampshire University say more than 200 students and 20 staff members have applied for the US$1 million in grants that the mostly online school began offering January 15. Most of the requests have been for help paying mortgages, utility bills, car payments and childcare costs.

While a few schools offered help in the first days of the partial shutdown, many others followed as it stretched into the spring semester and tuition deadlines drew near.

Schools that have announced help range from community colleges to big public universities and private Ivy League schools.

Among the latest to advertise help are Brown University, Rutgers University and the State University of New York system. At Brown, in Providence, Rhode Island, affected students can have their tuition payments deferred and apply for short-term loans of up to US$500.

At the College of Southern Maryland, a community college south of Washington, officials say more than 100 students have received grants or entered into tuition payment plans because of the shutdown.-AP

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