The current federal government shutdown — now in its second week — is costing the state of Michigan about $18 million per day according to the state’s budget director. There have been many “threats” and “warnings” from both parties, yet there appears to be no end in sight. While there have been major repercussions across the board, the shutdown has already induced huge ramifications for higher education. If the shutdown continues, which very well may be the case, the effects on University students could be astounding.
The federal government shutdown has paused the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ current investigations of universities suspected of violating mandates of Title IX — the federal gender equality law — by mishandling of sexual violence on their campuses. The processing of Clery Act complaints — filed by students and faculty about college’s reporting of safety and security — as well as follow-up on resolved complaints and reforms in college policies have also been halted. Crimes concerning sexual assault are extremely time-sensitive issues, and not addressing them in a prompt manner might undo the steps that have been taken to make collegiate handling of sexual violence more transparent and fair.
Federal research funding has been stalled, and all associated agencies have had to close their doors. Federal scientists — deemed nonessential — have had to drop their work, meaning the large community of researchers at academic institutions were forced to halt their ongoing projects. The University itself might see reduction in federal research as federal sponsorship accounts for about 62 percent of the University’s total research volume. Research projects funded through contracts rather than grants, or awaiting federal regulatory approval, are on hold. The University has also stalled the process for obtaining new awards for research. In addition, many federal electronic databases regularly used as scholarly resources in academic work and research papers aren’t being updated, including those of the Library of Congress, the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Science Foundation and the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Military service academies have also been affected. Some immediate consequences include shutdown of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York, along with classes being cancelled at other academic institutions. At the schools still holding classes, such as the Air Force Academy, students can’t access books at the library, tutoring centers or resources from the media due to cuts in academic sources. Here at the University, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library on North Campus remains closed.
These serious impediments are, however, fairly immediate — an elongated shutdown could cause immense difficulties in numerous other areas. The need-based Pell Grant and federal student loans have been affected — most of the employees overseeing the programs have been furloughed — making it difficult for recipients to get answers to questions. However, a longer shutdown could reduce federal funding in this area. Federal funding also goes beyond tuition for some college students; food subsidies, grants and loans for student housing all come from the government. These disagreements must end to eliminate the stranglehold on college students and the rest of the American people.