By: Cory William Berlekamp
On Thursday, Feb. 8, Congress will vote again on the 2018 budget plan that was supposed to be agreed on by Oct. 1, 2017. If this does not happen, the government will experience another shutdown.
During this time, the government cannot spend discretionary funds and services deemed non-essential will also stop. According to Director of Financial Aid at the University of Findlay Joe Spencer, the Department of Education is one of those services that will be affected.
“I believe they said up to about 90% of the Department of Education during the shutdown would not be able to work during that time,” said Spencer. “That sounds kind of scary but when you look at how the funding works; grants, scholarships and loans from the federal government are considered mandatory.”
A large number of the students at the University rely on aid from the institution and federal government.
“We’ll say it’s about 90% that get some sort of funding from the institution but when we are talking about federal student aid, it drops down to 70%,” stated Spencer. “When we are talking about students that receive grant funding, then you are in the ball park of 30 to 35%.”
A government shutdown is not out of the ordinary according to an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Firelands campus of BGSU Stephanie Walls.
“Unfortunately, using budgets and the need for one as leverage to get cooperation is not new,” said Walls. “It’s a lot more common than people realize.”
Although health care and DACA seem to be the big bargaining chips, Walls says defense spending and the border wall are both big projects that affect the Department of Education funding.
“I think given that the millennial generation has now exceeded the number of baby boomers to be the largest generation in our country, I don’t know that cutting federal student loan funding or Pell grant funding is politically smart,” said Walls.
Katie Koomer, a junior in the occupational therapy program at the University, would not be able to continue the program without help from federal aid.
“I would probably have to go to my parents but if they couldn’t help me, I would probably have to transfer out of this school,” said Koomer. “If we couldn’t get those loans, there’s no way we could work it off while taking classes at a minimum wage job to get through school, especially here.”
According to Professor Walls, though, it is not uncommon for Congress to follow the president’s initial budget plan.
“I know sometimes people think ‘well the president starts with this proposal, that’s the starting point’ but really very few people in Congress see it that way,” stated Walls. “They are probably not going to begin with the president’s recommendations.”
Although a congressional budget plan is something that students might not think about on a day to day basis, Walls states that students should keep it in mind for their future.
“I would encourage students to contact their representatives in the house, their senators, make sure they know that funding for higher education is important to them and that when considering a budget, please don’t cut those funds because they are so necessary,” explained Walls.
“Representatives need to hear from their constituents and particularly college students who are actively being affected by those policies should definitely make their positions known,” she concluded.