Continuing government shutdown raises university concerns

Katelynn Mccollough

Friday marks the 11th day that the United States government has been in shutdown mode since it was unable to pass a budget for the next fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1.

A finalized budget to fund the government has yet to pass through Congress and make it to the president’s desk for his signature, as the issue of raising the debt ceiling before Oct. 17 heightens.

The last and longest government shutdown took place from Dec. 15, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996, a total of 21 days.

“Because government shutdowns are not the norm, it’s difficult to forecast exactly when those critical deadlines would be where Iowa State would start experiencing significant funding disruptions,” said Miles Lackey, associate vice president at Iowa State.

Lackey explained that federal funding for some research could be delayed, but there are also concerns when it comes to Pell Grants, students in work study programs and visa functions for international students.

“The effects are there, but not all of us can feel or see them,” said David Swenson, associate scientist in the department of economics. “Because it accumulates slowly, we run the risk of saying, ‘oh, that wasn’t so bad, was it?’ But it may not be so bad for you; it may not be so bad for me, but it is bad for us accumulatively, and we need to pay attention to it.”

Swenson said he does not see the government shutdown interfering with Iowa State’s core missions but said it can still affect students’ lives and be “disruptive.”

Roberta Johnson, director of financial aid, said students who have student loans will not see any effects from the government shutdown but that whatever is going to happen with the debt ceiling is a larger issue.

“They are the provider of the funds for the direct Stafford and the direct unsubsidized Stafford loans,” Johnson said.

The largest issue deals with how long the shutdown goes unresolved.

“We would be talking more about months than opposed to weeks,” Lackey said about the timeline of impacts. “The effects short term are minimal, but the severity of that impact does increase with the duration of the shutdown.”

Smaller initiatives have been pushed, without success, to fund specific areas of the government.

“If we have a shutdown that lasts a month we are going to see not just a deterioration in the economy, we’re going to see a deterioration in the scope of public service and the scope of public safety,” Swenson said, who explained that some things might not be inspected.

Lackey mentioned that Iowa State is also paying attention to how the shutdown is impacting others, such as farmers, in Iowa.

“We have to look at the entire forest, so to speak, if it is hurting our neighbors. At some point it’s going to have an impact on us,” Lackey said, who explained they have conveyed their concerns to Iowa’s congressional delegation.”

Swenson explained that when it comes to the coming issues of the debt ceiling, default would have a “vastly destabilizing effect on the market.”

“We are here because of [the government’s] continuing inability to produce a budget for the president to sign. This dysfunction started long before Oct. 1.”