Government Shutdown Impact on Education Could Begin in Earnest Next Week
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) The auto-reply email message that went out from Department of Education spokesperson Jane Glickman spoke volumes.
"Thank you for your message. The U.S. government is temporarily shut down, effective Tuesday, Oct. 1, due to a lapse in federal appropriations. I do not have any access to email or voicemail during this time. The press inbox will be monitored on a very limited basis: firstname.lastname@example.org."
Glickman's message also suggested that recipients visit ED.gov for the latest information on ED's operational status. The Website remains up and running. Most Federal Student Aid Call Centers and Federal Student Aid Web Sites continue to operate, despite the lack of a federal stopgap spending measure.
While no one at ED was available to speak--94% of the ED staff is now furloughedthe U.S. Department of Education has prepared a contingency plan for its own operations now that the federal government has shut down. David Levy of the Edvisors Network blogged that federal student aid programs will largely be unaffected by a government shutdown--at least for the first week.
"The department said it would likely be able to continue disbursing Federal Direct Loans, Federal Pell Grants and other financial aid dollars on a short-term basis," he said.
"As was the case in 1995, the shutdown may mean slower service but no major disruptions for college and university campuses," Levy continued. "The only exception to this might be traditional research-based universities which might be harmed by delays in grant funding and processing."
But after this week, all bets are off. "The department warned in its Contingency Plan that if the shutdown lasted longer than a week, it would begin to severely curtail funding to colleges and universities," Levy said.
A spokesperson for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau declined to comment on how the government shutdown impacts student loans, even though it has researched student loans, has a student loan ombudsman and a section on its Website that dispenses advice on how to pay for college. While the Department of Education is funded by Congress, the CFPB was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and is funded through a fixed percentage of the Federal Reserve System's total operating expensesand is fully staffed and operational.
Among those hit the hardest aren't people with student loans today, but those who anticipate taking them out a year from now. "Today, high school seniors are trying to decide where to visit and apply to, but resources like the College Affordability and Transparency Center, the College Scorecard, and College Navigator are dark," said David Bergeron, vice president for postsecondary education at the Center American Progress in Washington. "And much of the Federal government's research data on higher education and nearly everything else is likewise unavailable.