September 27, 2023
The looming government shutdown could wreak havoc on the U.S. Education Department’s jam-packed fall plans.
Student loan payments resume Sunday—the day after funding for the government will run out unless Congress acts this week—and the agency is set to start negotiations over a new plan for student loan forgiveness in a few weeks. Department staff members are also working to issue final rules on Title IX and gainful employment. Plus, a new version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is set to launch in December.
All this means that an October shutdown could cause a mess for the agency, depending on how long the funding lapse persists, though student loan payments will restart regardless of whether the government stays open. Higher education industry groups and think tanks are expecting the department to issue the gainful-employment rule this week to beat the shutdown, though the negotiated rule-making sessions and some planned regulatory actions would likely be put on hold.
The department also is planning to designate more employees as critical to ensure that work on overhauling the FAFSA continues ahead of the December launch. The new FAFSA already has been delayed from its scheduled Oct. 1 debut but is expected before the end of the year.
“They recognize the importance of hitting their current December deadline,” said Jon Fansmith, senior vice president of government relations at the American Council on Education. “My understanding is that they will have the right staff deemed essential so that work will not be suspended by a shutdown.”