State Office of Higher Education open, but limits services in a shutdown

Minnesota’s higher education system seems to be faring well in the preparation leading up to a potential government shutdown.  The University of Minnesota will remain open and schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system plan to operate as normal.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education will remain open as well, albeit with a reduced workforce and limited services.

If you’re a student with a SELF loan, you’ll be OK, those payments will still go out.

However the office won’t process State Grant applications or send out the awards during a shutdown. Few students get those checks this time of year. But if the shutdown lingers into August, students who rely on financial aid to pay for college could start to see problems.  Even if the shutdown is a short one, it could cause delays for OHE as it scrambles to get back on task after a budget deal is struck.

Other programs that won’t operate during a shutdown: state work study, the Minnesota GI bill, child care grants and the Indian scholarship program.

Here’s today’s news release from the OHE:

OFFICE OF HIGHER EDUCATION TO REMAIN OPEN IN THE EVENT OF A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

St. Paul, MN – Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled on Wednesday that the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) will remain open during a possible government shutdown, but with a reduced level of staff and limited services.

“I am very pleased that Judge Gearin agreed with Governor Dayton that some functions of the Office of Higher Education should continue,” said Dr. Sheila Wright, Director of OHE. “I remain hopeful that any interruption in service will be brief, and that we can quickly resume helping Minnesota’s students fulfill their dreams of continuing their education.”

Judge Gearin ruled that the SELF Loan program, which is funded through the sale of revenue bonds, should continue in the event of a government shutdown to protect the financial stability of the state and minimize the negative impact on individual borrowers.

OHE will be unable to process state grant applications or issue state grant awards during a government shutdown, however. According to Dr. Wright, OHE staff has been working with financial aid administrators to assist students with completing their applications before June 30, whenever possible.

After the shutdown, Dr. Wright said there could be delays in coping with the backlog of state grant applications, but OHE staff will work as quickly as possible to process all applications.

“As soon as the shutdown is over, our top priority will be servicing our students,” said Dr. Wright. “We want to assure them that any delay in receiving their state grant will not prevent them from attending college in the fall.”

Other services that will not be available during a shutdown include the State Work Study, MN GI Bill, Child Care grants and the Indian scholarship program.

Federal financial aid programs such as Federal Work Study and Pell Grants will continue, as well as institutional grants.

In the event of a shutdown, students can continue to apply for SELF Loans and also contact SELF staff at selfloan.ohe@state.mn.us. While SELF loan staff will not be available by phone during a shutdown, students can call Firstmark Services at 888-295-0713 with questions about their SELF loans.

For more information on how a state government shutdown will impact the Office of Higher Education, please contact Sandy Connolly at 651-259-3902 or by email at sandy.connolly@state.mn.us.