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NMSI Blog

How does the government shutdown impact our students

The government has been officially shut down for two weeks, and while everyone is worried about the long and short-term impact on our daily lives, NMSI is particularly concerned about the impact the shutdown has on education.  Specifically, we are concerned about how the shutdown affects, and will continue to affect, our teachers and students.  You might be shocked to know that more than 90% of the Department of Education’s staff members were deemed “non-essential.”  In other words, out of the DOE’s 4,225 employees, only 212 are now working.
 
With most of the Department of Education’s employees on furlough, the ramifications of the shutdown are dire for our students.  According to the Department of Education’s Contingency Plan for Lapse in FY 2014 Appropriation, there are varying levels of impact depending on the duration of the shutdown:

•Grant funding could stop. For a lapse occurring during the first week of October, the authorized obligations would include the $22 billion in advance appropriations for formula grants to States under Titles I and II of ESEA, IDEA Part B State Grants, and Career and Technical Education.  These funds were already in place, but this does not guarantee continued funding.

•Student debt will rise. The Department of Education anticipates that there will be limited impact to the federal student aid application (FAFSA) process, to the delivery of federal student aid, or to the federal student loan repayment functions.  However, a prolonged government shutdown or a long-term reduction in education funding would lead to high origination costs for students receiving financial aid and student loans, which means students take a hard hit in an environment where student debt is at an all-time high and loan defaults are growing areas of concern.

•School programs will shut-down. A protracted delay in Department obligations and payments beyond one week would severely curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on the Department’s funds to support their services.  For example, many school districts receive more than 20% of their funds from Department-funded programs.  Colleges rely on Higher Education funds to pay ongoing expenses of staff who administer programs for disadvantaged students seeking to enter and stay in college.  Vocational rehabilitation agencies receive 80 percent of the cost of providing services to adult individuals with disabilities from the Department’s program.
 
Of course, this short list does not represent the totality of the shutdown’s impact.  The Education Trust reports that even military families are in a precarious situation – 1,389 school districts near military bases and tribal reservations that depend on federal impact aid could stop receiving funding in the event of an extended shutdown.  There are also numerous reports from college students in ROTC programs that their ROTC stipends have been suspended until further notice.
 
Schools across the U.S. are already coping with cuts to the federal budget for education and cuts by their state legislatures.  Our students cannot afford a government shutdown or even more severe cuts in education.  Without the proper support, they will suffer both academically and economically. We need an immediate solution that prioritizes student needs and their futures. 
 
Click the button to Tweet! - An extended #GovernmentShutdown will damage our education system and put more students at risk. #edchat
 
Our CEO, Sara Martinez Tucker, offered great insight into this critical issue in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, which you can view below.