UC campuses face limited short-run impacts after federal government shutdown

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While many government agencies have ceased to operate in the wake of the federal government shutdown, UC campuses have been spared most immediate impacts — at least in the short run.

On Monday, after Congress failed to pass a spending bill that would have funded government operations for the current fiscal year, the nation entered its first government shutdown in 17 years, placing 800,000 federal employees on furlough as parts of the government closed the next day.

Although UC campuses continued to operate normally Tuesday, should the shutdown continue for a significant period of time, it could impact educational services, financial aid programs and health care, said UC spokesperson Brooke Converse.

“We might not be able to see the impacts right away,” Converse said. “Right now, we are just monitoring the situation. We want to make sure that funding to the university continues, and we will continue lobbying for things to help students.”

Student aid and loan services will also continue to function normally for now, according to a contingency plan by the U.S. Department of Education. A shutdown of operations beyond one week, however, would “severely curtail” funds given to school districts, colleges and universities, according to the plan.

Esther Gulli, UC Berkeley’s director of federal relations, said students who plan to study abroad or travel during winter break may experience delays in passport and visa processing.

Additionally, the UC system will not receive new research grants during the shutdown, Converse said.

National research facilities managed by the university, such as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, will continue operating for the time being, according to lab officials. If the shutdown is prolonged, however, impacts to programs and employees will be “unavoidable,” and operations will have to adapt based on available funding and federal guidance, said Jon Weiner, manager of communications and media relations at the Berkeley lab.

Policy experts say the funding impasse could lead to a more pressing argument over the federal debt limit, which the government is projected to reach Oct. 17.

Robert Reich, a campus professor of public policy and a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, said that if the debt ceiling is not lifted, the economy could suffer substantially.

“Everything from student loans to aid to education to the full faith and credit of the United States is potentially at issue,” Reich said in an email.

Reich said that he expects the shutdown to continue through the debt ceiling’s deadline, at which point he believes the president will instruct the Treasury to continue paying the nation’s bill.

Larry Magid, a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, echoed Reich’s sentiments, and said that the national and international economies will be greatly affected if the federal government default on its debt obligations.

“My students in particular are very focused on their job prospects,” Magid said. “The job market is just recovering, and this is threatened by the ongoing crisis.”

John Ellwood, a professor at the public policy school, also said a default on the national debt could cause economic chaos.

“Markets will go crazy, and interest rates will be way up,” Ellwood said. “The U.S. will lose its economic position, and the economy will take a big hit.”

Contact Jessie Lau at [email protected]