Nearly 6,000 students converge onto the campuses of the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) the week of January 22 as the 2019 spring semester gets underway. To date, 100 returning students whose family or themselves are impacted by the current federal government shutdown are taking advantage of CSM’s offers of tuition support.
“No student’s education should be interrupted because the government shut down,” said CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy. “The College of Southern Maryland stands ready to help those impacted continue to achieve their academic goals in any way we can.”
When the news that the government shutdown could extend beyond the first day of classes and tuition payment deadlines, CSM established two assistance opportunities to meet the needs of impacted students, both credit and non-credit.
U.S. colleges and universities are postponing tuition, waiving late fees and providing emergency grants to students because of the shutdown https://t.co/3AMC7YNrFC
— Bloomberg (@business) January 25, 2019
The first is a tuition payment plan with no money down or enrollment fee required and tuition payments coinciding with the reinstatement of the federal government budget and when workers return to their jobs. The second is an emergency assistance program that provides a one-time grant for students who have been permanently affected by layoffs or do not anticipate reimbursement of back pay from the government shutdown. Funding for these grants are made possible through the efforts of the CSM Foundation.
“We have assisted students who are on path to graduate this spring stay the course and in some cases, we have just helped students purchase their books,” said Murphy. “The vast majority of the applicants are students whose families are furloughed government employees. Overwhelmingly, these students and families are requesting consideration for the no money down, or deferred payment plan, as they have indicated an expectation to receive back pay – they just need to make the payments later in the semester.”
[See NPR story about CSM’s efforts: Colleges Provide Tuition Relief to Furloughed Workers.]
More than 62,000 federal employees live in the Fifth District, which includes the three Southern Maryland counties in CSM’s service area. In addition to the many residents who are employed by the federal government in Washington, D.C., other major employers in the region include the bases in St. Mary’s and Charles counties [Navy Aviation Warfare Center-Aviation Division NAWC/AD, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (NSWC/IHEODTD), and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)] and the associated defense contractors.
“In addition to the payment plan adjustments, we’ve also received a handful of requests from students who are unable to provide tax transcripts to complete their financial applications,” CSM Financial Aid Officer Chris Zimmermann said. “Thankfully, we are able to accept alternative documentation while the IRS is shut down.” (Read more at Guidance on Tax Info For Student Aid Applications.)
In a recent news story, CSM student Brittany Pritchett, of Lusby, told the St. Mary’s Enterprise that she didn’t think the furlough would last this long and she is glad that CSM put her on a non-pay status until she returns to work.
“I’m very thankful that they had this option,” Pritchett was quoted as saying, “because that was my issue. I was weighing things out and calculating, and I was also given a grant that will take care of my books. It was a very quick, self-explanatory thing; I just had to upload my furlough letter. Someone contacted me right away and the grant was given right away.”
Pritchett is employed with the U.S. Department of Commerce and is studying business management.
“We are fortunate as a community college to be nimble and able to immediately put processes in place, and to have a very supportive Foundation that was able to identify the necessary funds to provide the emergency one-time grants that we are making available,” added Murphy.
Since 2017, CSM has also offered micro-food pantries, named Hawk Feeders, at each of CSM’s four campuses. Hawk Feeders help address the short-term basic food needs any student—whether they are furloughed, or not—may be experiencing. Built by a CSM faculty member, the Hawk Feeders are stocked through individual donations by faculty, staff and students as well as through food drives, under the adage, “Give what you can, take what you need.”
Any student who is affected by the federal government shutdown should contact the college immediately to identify available financial assistance. A dedicated hotline has been established to support these students and is available at 301-934-7762, online at www.csmd.edu/shutdown or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The College of Southern Maryland is a regionally accredited community college that provides programs and services with a special focus on local workforce development to maintain and grow a healthy economy and community. CSM serves more than 24,000 credit and continuing education students at its campuses located in Hughesville, La Plata, Leonardtown and Prince Frederick, as well as a Higher Education Center shared with University of Maryland University College in Waldorf and a Center for Transportation Training in La Plata. For information about CSM, call 301-934-7765 or visit www.csmd.edu.