Government shutdown has minimal effect on university

Julia Perkins

The federal government has been shutdown since Oct. 1, but most students are not feeling its effect.

“It’s kind of hard to assess whether or not the government shutdown affects students as a demographic,” junior political science major Matthew Bowser said. “Of course, if their parents are furloughed as a result of the shutdown, it certainly has an effect, but as far as a widespread effect I would say it’s limited to students in D.C., and students all over needing services from public offices, like people needing visas or passports.”

The government shutdown will not impact students who have received federal financial aid, according to Associate Vice President and University Director of Financial Aid Dominic Yoia. Students’ financial aid for the fall semester has already been processed. Also, the government offices that process financial aid and student loans are still open.

“The only potential problem we would have is with a veteran if they joined a program that started after Oct. 1,” Yoia said. “So, for example, if they’re eligible for [Veterans Affairs] benefits and they start in the spring and this thing is not resolved in the spring, they won’t be getting their benefits, but as long as their program started prior to Oct. 1, regardless of when they applied for benefits, they’re fine.”

If the shutdown lasts for months, it could affect students’ financial aid in the spring semester, according to Yoia. However, he expects the shutdown will be resolved within one to two weeks.

“You have nothing to worry about as a student,” Yoia said. “It’s just important that everybody not get alarmed over something that’s not going to impact them or likely be an issue.”

The government shutdown mostly affects students who have family members employed by the government or people who wish to visit national parks, according to professor of political science Scott McLean.

“I think it’s also affecting the U.S. image in the world where we look very foolish for putting ourselves into jeopardy like this,” McLean said. “I think that it can also be a problem for future negotiations. I think it will only make the partisan gridlock in Congress worse if there isn’t any sense of movement toward a compromise.”

The government shutdown is also putting the nation at risk for defaulting on its national debt, which McLean said would be a disaster. Congress must raise the debt ceiling by Oct. 17 or the United States will default on its loans.

“The odds of it happening are not that great, but [it’s] just the fact that they’re talking about it and they’re coming this close to allowing it to happen,” he said. “It’s already having really negative effects on the market worldwide.”

McLean pointed to the fact the stock market went down last Thursday, due to fears the United States would default on its loans. On Friday, however, the stocks went up again, according to CNN.

If the nation were to default on its national debt, the U.S. bond rating would drop and there would be panic in the economic market, according to McLean. This would have a negative impact on the world economy and, similar to 2008, unemployment would rise, he said.

This would affect financial aid because interest rates would go up, according to McLean.

“We would see the university’s endowment be threatened by this because the endowment is so locked up in investments and banks and so it would just be a very, very bad situation,” McLean said.

The university’s endowment took a hit after the economic crash in 2008, according to McLean. The university had to implement a temporary hiring freeze and raise tuition, room and board.

“Quickly we were in trouble and it was difficult for the university to start paying its bills,” McLean said. “That puts more pressure on students and families to pay more and pay their bills and so on and so forth, so it’s just a cascading set of problems that are going to come if the U.S. defaults on their debt.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner and his fellow Republicans want to negotiate a deal where the debt ceiling is raised if there are cuts on government spending and entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Boehner said on ABC News on Sunday there would not be enough votes in the House to pass a clean, continuing resolution.

“I’m not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up,” Boehner said. It would be irresponsible of me to do this.”

The Democrats want a clean continuing resolution, meaning the debt ceiling is raised without any cuts or concessions, McLean said.

“We are happy to negotiate on anything,” President Obama told the Associated Press. “But what we can’t do is keep engaging in this sort of brinksmanship where a small faction of the Republican Party ends up forcing them into brinksmanship to see if they can somehow get more from negotiations by threatening to shut down the government or threatening America not paying its bills.”

Some believe the president has the constitutional power to raise the debt ceiling with an executive order, but Obama does not agree with this interpretation of the constitution.

“If this was the realm of theory, this is the realm of practice,” McLean said. “He may actually end up doing that just to keep things going.”

 McLean believes the issue regarding the government shutdown and the debt ceiling will be resolved at the same time.

Sophomore Alan Johnson, who went on the university’s trip to see the presidential inauguration in January, believes the shutdown may not affect students’ day-to-day lives, but it will impact how they look at government leaders.

“The greatest long-term effect on both the country and Quinnipiac students is a general distrust of all politicians, but especially the Republicans in Congress,” Johnson said. “After seeing the Republicans literally stop the government over a bill that has already been passed, putting their personal agenda over the well being of the country, I doubt that many undecided voters are going to be swayed to vote Republican come next election.”