For the first time since 2013, the government of the United States has shut down.
The shutdown, which occurred on Friday, Jan. 19 at midnight, was the result of the expiration of a spending bill. Republicans and Democrats have reached an impasse regarding the bill, which did not include protections for the children of illegal immigrants, dubbed “Dreamers,” which Democrats are advocating for.
After the Senate failed to reach an agreement regarding the bill, the government shut down, leaving thousands of federal workers without pay for an indeterminable amount of time.
To college students in central Indiana, the shutdown may seem isolated to Washington, D.C. and therefore may also seem inconsequential. However, Dr. Michael Frank, professor of political science, explains how the shutdown can have an impact on every citizen of the United States, including college students living in Anderson, Indiana.
“Congress hasn’t passed a budget since fiscal year 2010,” says Frank. “So, what Congress has been doing since then is passing continuing resolutions. It literally is, ‘Let’s continue spending at essentially the levels that we have before.’”
The continuing resolutions take the place of the budget, which is technically meant to be set on a yearly basis, and is typically easier to pass than a budget.
“What causes a shutdown is that there is no budget—the budget ends, or the continuing resolution ends,” says Frank. “So, Congress hasn’t given the executive branch the authority to spend money. That’s a shutdown.”
Beginning Monday of this week, “non-essential” federal workers, such as museum personnel, have been furloughed and are unable to work. Meanwhile, “essential” workers—meaning those with positions in national security and the military—are able to work, but cannot be paid for their work until after the government shutdown ends.
This becomes increasingly problematic for workers the longer the shutdown lasts. The longest government shutdown lasted for approximately a month from December 1995 to January 1996 under former President Bill Clinton.
“Even with people in the military, if that paycheck isn’t coming in and you’re the spouse who’s at home raising kids, and your spouse is fighting and you’re not getting that paycheck, there’s bills to pay,” says Frank.
Frank says that AU college students may be affected in multiple ways by the government shutdown as well.
“There’s the potential that some processing of financial aid documents like FAFSA could be affected,” says Frank. “Your financial aid documents for this school year have already been processed, but that’s a possibility.”
Those planning to embark on Tri-S trips in the spring may encounter some challenges as well.
“Passports aren’t being processed at the moment, so you may not wind up with a passport on time,” says Frank.
In addition, anyone at a college or university applying for a grant through the federal government would experience a significant delay.
“Faculty at universities across the United States participate in writing grant proposals to have the federal government help fund research,” says Frank. “That could potentially affect a student getting a paid internship as part of the grant.”
Unfortunately, Frank says there is no real way to determine how long the current shutdown will last. In the meantime, he encourages students to avoid the “rhetoric” surrounding which political party is to blame while Democrats and Republicans attempt to reach a compromise on the spending bill.
“You see rhetoric on both sides, and the rhetoric is about ‘let’s point the finger and cast blame on the other side,’” says Frank. “That’s really all the rhetoric really is; it’s trying to gain some advantage in the compromise solution. Don’t pay attention to that stuff, and just recognize that the fact of the matter is that it’s going to require a compromise in the Senate.”