The Obama administration has called for a swift end to the federal government shutdown, adding that a protracted delay would “severely curtail” the cash flow to school districts and colleges and universities across the nation.
President Barack Obama said that Republicans caused the crisis in an effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which went into effect despite dozens of attempts by the GOP to appeal the 2010 legislation.
“I will not negotiate over Congress’ responsibility to pay bills it’s already racked up,” Obama said Tuesday. “I’m not going to allow anybody to drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud just to refight a settled election or extract ideological demands. Nobody gets to hurt our economy and millions of hardworking families over a law you don’t like.”
There are 14 million college students in this country who receive some form of financial aid, including Pell Grants and the Direct Loan. While most have already received their disbursements for the 2013-2014 fall academic semester, if the shutdown drags on, the U.S. Department of Education will likely have a difficult time fielding inquiries from new applicants since it has furloughed nearly 90 percent of its 4,000 employees.
Last week, the DOE released a contingency plan in an attempt to reassure college presidents, parents and students that the department would be able to withstand a shutdown even with skeleton staff. James W. Runcie, chief operating officer for Federal Student Aid at the DOE said that schools, lenders and guaranty agencies would be minimally impacted.
The last federal government shutdown began during President Clinton’s presidency in December 1995 and stretched into 1996, lasting 21 days.
Some colleges and universities used the shutdown to engage students in a civic discussion about the inner-workings of government. At Franklin College in Columbus, Ohio, the school posted a question on the college’s Facebook page asking students their thoughts about the situation in the nation’s capital.
At Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, administrators were already anticipating that “the processing of grant dollars we have already been awarded may be slowed down,” said Eric Webb, a spokesman for the historically Black school. “Also, our ability to talk with our program officers is cut off” as a result of the furloughs.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department announced that it has temporarily suspended sports competition at the military academies Tuesday as a result of the shutdown. Among other sporting events, Navy had been scheduled to host Howard University in a soccer match Tuesday night. A Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said the decision to suspend sports competition was being reviewed to determine whether the funds used for such activities are congressionally appropriated.
Jamal Watson can be reached at [email protected]