How a Government Shutdown Can Affect Higher Education
The three-day government shutdown ended this past Monday. But, how could it have impacted higher education?
Last Saturday, the majority of the federal government shut down after Congress was unable to pass the spending bill. This meant that all nonessential government employees were furloughed, and most federally run operations closed down. But after a weekend of failed negotiations, the Senate was finally able to pass a stopgap funding measure on Monday evening, thus putting an end to the three-day shutdown.
The government shutdown had a pretty limited short-term impact on students relying on federal aid since most funding had already been distributed for the 2017-2018 school year. On top of that, Pell Grants are considered mandatory funds, so they were unaffected by the shutdown as well.
But according to David Bergeron, who is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, unexpected problems can happen when a government shutdown goes on for a long period of time. Bergeron explained that when the majority of the workforce is absent, " …it can result in things not happening that are critical" according to the press release.
Specifically, a longer shutdown has the potential to affect the department’s grant-making work. It can also slow down the department’s ability to choose future grant recipients and poses questions about the future availability of grant funds.
Roughly 90 percent of the staff at the Department of Education was furloughed on Monday. Since the shutdown was brief, the impact was minimal, but if it had dragged on for a long period of time, then many colleges would have started to feel the effects.
A government shutdown also puts a halt on most activities carried out by the civil rights department. And according to Catherine Lhamon, who was the assistant secretary during the government shutdown in 2013, this meant her organization was unable to carry out planned investigations. Lhamon added, “You don’t get those rights back."
A long-term shutdown could also slow or halt the progress of ongoing research. For instance, the National Science Foundation stated that while researchers who have already received funds can continue using them, no new payments can be made during a government shutdown. This could affect many NSF grant recipients because their funds are allotted in multiple payments rather than all at once.
And while the Department of Health and Human Services stated that the National Institutes of Health would continue to offer care to patients undergoing clinical trials, they did not mention university grants.
This new measurement signed by President Trump extends the government through February 8th, which means the potential for a future shutdown exists.
Image Copyright © Cuzco84