Shutdown Stops Students from Receiving Financial Aid

Eada Alsoodani in Saudi Arabia.

By Taylor Romano

During December and early January, most people were likely visiting family and celebrating  the holiday season, enjoying good food and time with family. Eada Alsoodani, 21 and dual-citizen of Saudi Arabia and the United States, was on break from her junior year at the University of Oregon (UO) and spending time with her mother and sister in their hometown of Leavenworth, Washington  – home to the Nutcracker Museum and idyllic, North Pole-like architecture. In the midst of their picturesque holiday celebration, Alsoodani received news that her financial aid application had been randomly flagged for a review. At first, this wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t until three days before Christmas, when President Donald Trump announced the partial shutdown of the U.S. government that she found out that she could no longer attend UO.

Alsoodani was born in Saudi Arabia, but moved to the United States with her mother and sister when she was 10-years-old. She quickly gained dual-citizenship as her mother is a natural-born American citizen. Alsoodani had always had higher education as part of her life plan, but the cost of that plan had to be taken into consideration. The Saudi government promises to pay for the college tuition of any of its citizens attending school in the United States. Unfortunately, they denied Alsoodani access to this scholarship money because of her dual-citizenship, claiming that she could get financial aid through the United States. Now, she takes out loans and receives financial aid through FAFSA.

UO student Eada Alsoodani.

Alsoodani, called the financial aid office at UO in early December to check the status of her financial aid application through FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as she hadn’t received any notification that it’d been reviewed and that she could claim her awarded aid. They informed her that her application was undergoing a random check by the IRS and FBI, but that it should be cleared within 30 days.

This normally isn’t a big deal. However, shortly after they flagged Alsoodani’s account, the U.S. government shut down, leaving thousands of American citizens out of work – including the IRS and the FBI. There was no one left to verify Alsoodani’s FAFSA application, leaving Alsoodani in limbo and unable to register for any of her classes until two weeks into the new term.

“My mother freaked out,” said Alsoodani when she found out she couldn’t enroll in classes. “She was saying things like, ‘Why can’t my girls just get an education?’” Apparently, Alsoodani’s older sister has had her account randomly flagged twice before.

Alsoodani still came back to Eugene after winter break in order to talk to the financial aid office at UO and fill out more paperwork for them. They surprised her by voiding the flag on her account and giving her the money she needed to enroll. The financial aid Office said that other students were affected by the shutdown just like Alsoodani and with no end in sight, they voided all flags on applications.

That being said, all of these students, including Alsoodani, had to petition their professors to allow them to take the classes they wanted after the enrollment deadline; fortunately, Alsoodani’s professors were sympathetic.“All of my professors were really understanding, and wanted to help in any way possible,” she said. She was able to start classes at the end of the second week of the term and claims that she has now just barely gotten caught up on all the school work she missed. Although it has been a very stressful couple of weeks for Alsoodani, she says that she’s just happy she will still graduate on time.

The U.S. government shutdown obviously affected thousands of government employees, but there were thousands more indirectly affected like Alsoodani.