How would a Government Shut Down Affect Education?

by way of The Chronicle of Higher Education September 30,2013

If Congress fails to reach agreement on a stopgap spending bill and the government shuts down on Tuesday, the impact on colleges, students, and university scientists would be minimal, at least at first.

But researchers who depend on government-run archives, libraries, and museums could see their work interrupted, and some university employees whose salaries are paid by the federal government may have to wait for their paychecks.
Student Aid

The shutdown would not disrupt the awarding of student aid or the servicing of student loans, at least in the short term, according to the Education Department’s contingency plan. Commercial student-loan servicers and other contractors could continue to work for “some short period of time,” but they would have to wait to be paid, and no new contracts would be awarded.

Colleges with government grants could continue their work.

But a lapse of longer than a week could “severely curtail the cash flow” to those colleges with federal grants, according to the contingency plan. Colleges rely on federal funds to pay staff members who run programs for disadvantaged students seeking to enter and stay in college.

The furlough of Education Department staff members involved in making grants could also lead to delays in the awarding of grants to colleges later in the year.

In the event of a shutdown, the department will furlough more than 90 percent of its employees immediately, according to the contingency plan.

If the closure drags on for a week or more, up to 6 percent of the agency’s 4,225 employees will be called back to perform “essential” functions, such as providing payments to grantees and administering student aid.
Research Funds

A shutdown would close most operations at the National Institutes of Health, the largest supplier of federal money for basic research at American colleges and universities. Research on the NIH campus, in Bethesda, Md., would be halted, and no new patients would be accepted into the center’s medical trials.

The Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Archives and Records Administration would close, making some of the country’s richest archival, cultural, and scientific collections inaccessible to researchers until Washington reopened for business

Grants.gov, the online portal through which people search for and apply for federal grants, including NEH grants, will continue to operate but will have a reduced support staff, according to a notice on the Grants.gov blog.

The Federal Government will shut down just after midnight tonight if a compromise can not be reached.

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