By Nicole Viviano
The longest U.S. government shutdown concluded with the signing of a short term spending bill on Jan. 25, but not before the College extended a helping hand to those experiencing related financial hardship.
In her recent email sent to the campus community, President Kathryn Foster informed the community of the term bill extension program put in place for those in need.
“Families of furloughed employees are being forced to make difficult financial decisions, and we don’t want paying for college to add to their stress,” wrote President Foster in her email on Thursday.
The program was a proactive measure originally suggested by Vice President and Treasurer Lloyd Ricketts. Although there have been no requests yet, there is currently no cap on the number of students that will receive help.
“We did this not knowing whether we’re talking about a handful of students or a hundred or more, and it didn’t matter to us,” said Associate Vice President for Communications, Marketing and Brand Management David Muha. “We just felt it was the right thing to do.”
Trump’s three-week spending bill will alleviate some uncertainties, but the issue of back pay remains a concern. The temporary nature of the bill was the result of a presidential and congressional agreement, which will allow time for the deliberation over U.S. border security matters. The term bill extension program, which will be reviewed and managed by the Office of Student Accounts, has a simple verification criterion in order to ease some of the financial pressure families may be facing.
“I feel like it’s stressful to the students too because they don’t want to stress their parents out, but they also want their education,” said sophomore accounting major Ashley Ean.
Disheartened by the state of the country, Ean felt passionate about the current political climate surrounding the government shutdown.
“She’s (Foster) willing to forgo the price a little bit (by) trying to help the students who are in need of help,” Ean said.
Upon receiving President Foster’s email, senior journalism and professional writing major Amani Salahudeen said that it came at an appropriate time and offered the appropriate aid.
“I thought it was really good that TCNJ had decided to say something about it,” she said. “Especially since we don’t know how many students got affected by this … it’s a good thing they decided to take initiative.”
Both students, although not personally affected financially by the shutdown, were appreciative of the College’s promptness in responding to this national crisis and expressed their hopes that qualified students might take advantage of the help being offered to them.
“Our office will do all we can to support the families affected by the government shutdown,” said Scott Sferra, Director of Student Accounts.
The program was laid out to ensure that no penalties or interest would be accrued, and any balance on a qualifying student’s account would be discontinued until after the government shutdown was resolved. Along with the reviewing process and recognizing the time that will be needed for the government to pay employees, the College’s Office of Student Accounts awaits any and all qualifying students in need of help.
According to Sferra, with the government shutdown temporarily concluded, the Office of Student Accounts honors the commitment spelled out to students in President Foster’s email and they will listen and manage each situation case-by-case.
“We don’t have the ability to reopen the government, but we do have the ability to help in different ways. So this is something we felt we could do,” said Muha.
Information about the term bill extension program and qualifications for students in need can be found on the College’s Office of Student Accounts website.