Aid in Question as Shutdown Looms
Published: Thursday, April 7, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 7, 2011 23:04
The clock is ticking on a government shutdown that would have negative implications for the university and the District.
Congress and President Obama have until 11:59 p.m. today to finalize and sign a budget extension, or all of the non-essential functions of the federal government will grind to a halt.
The likeliness of a shutdown is still up for debate, but many signs seem to be indicating at least a short-term shutdown.
"If I were to guess, I would guess there will be a government shutdown for a short time," Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming said.
According to Fleming, this could mean issues in two specific areas for the university. Student visa processing and paperwork would be held up and federal loan disbursements for students receiving them as part of financial aid packages would be put on hold.
"It would be the embassies where [a shutdown] would be a problem," Director of International Student and Scholar Services Helene Robertson said.
Robertson said that the duration of any government shutdown would determine how serious these potential issues would turn out to be but cited two specific areas where current students may see problems. She said that international students who wish to travel abroad and currently have deadlines and paperwork in process for renewing entry visas may see complications in their ability to travel or return to the United States.
Current international students applying for an "optional practical training" visa to work in the United States in their specific field either over the summer or following graduation may face issues and processing delay
Ds if a government shutdown were to occur.
Robertson said her office has not yet been in contact with those students who may be affected by a shutdown because they are waiting for this to play out, but that they are drafting a message to send to students in the event of a shutdown.
Disbursements of federal student loans would also be delayed, though disbursements are not common this time of year. This would have an impact on the university receiving the funds from federal loans such as the Federal Stafford or Federal Perkins Loans that qualified students have taken as part of their financial aid packages.
There will also be noticeable impacts on the District. All of the Smithsonian museums and national parks would lock their doors and close their gates. Also, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade scheduled for Saturday would be cancelled.
When it comes to the severity of a potential shutdown it is about the duration; a weekend shutdown would probably not cause serious issues, according to Fleming.
Fleming was also optimistic about Congress closing a deal by at least next Friday, when there is a two-week district work period planned, for which many members of Congress have already scheduled events back home.
"If you look back historically, there is most likely a history of Congress solving issues like this before going out of session," Fleming said.
The last federal government shutdown occurred in 1995-1996 and lasted 27 days.