SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Students applying for federal education loans could face some delays thanks to the government shutdown.

The timing is not ideal as many high school seniors are applying for federal assistance for college next year right now.

The government shutdown can be confusing to navigate, especially if you're a high school senior trying to fill out the dreaded FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid form, or any other type of government higher education assistance.

The campus at Western New England University in Springfield is quiet for now. Students are due back on Monday.

Inside the financial aid office, however, Western Mass News found a very different story as staff help prospective students navigate financial aid.

The government shutdown isn't exactly helping.

"There is no good time, but this is the busy time for kids wanting to start school, especially new students who are seniors in high school and it's an overwhelming process anyway to experience this shutdown," said Kathleen Chambers.

The good news is that the Department of Education is open and so is the Treasury.

The challenging part comes if students are applying for the FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid, which determines eligibility for aid and requires information from the IRS, which is now shutdown.

There is a link right on FAFSA to the IRS to download tax information right onto their application.

Chambers said that part of the IRS, at least, is still working.

"The part that isn't working with the IRS, if someone needs to get a tax transcript or a physical copy of their tax return. That part is currently down," Chambers noted.

However, the IRS said that it hopes to have that up and running January 14.

For students concerned their existing federal assistance is in jeopardy because of the shutdown, Chambers said don't panic.

"We've been processing aid and dispersing aid since the shutdown and we've had no problems," Chambers added.

Following so far? Chambers said that it's confusing. Anyone with any questions should contact the colleges or universities they're applying to directly for more information.

The Department of Education also wants students with existing loans to know, despite the government shutdown, payments on those loans are still required.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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