My university is located in a rural community and is primarily an undergraduate institution. While we do get some federal grants, the majority of our funding comes from tuition and state appropriations. There are very few federal buildings or even offices nearby, and even fewer that are relevant to the majority of our largely middle class traditional-age student body. So it was Wednesday of this past week before I even heard a single student express any comment at all about the federal shutdown.
But several clearly knew it was happening by Wednesday and Thursday and more and more are talking about it. Follow me below the cloverleaf of cooperative communication for some vignettes from the heartland.
When student loans have to be processed they are going to have issues, but that would not have happened yet, because they would have the loans and grants set in place toward the beginning of the semester, even if the money was slightly delayed from the start of term in mid August. So money is not the issue for our students, and while I am sure that some students are receiving federal support through WIC (although I don't know of specific examples), that money has been extended for a few weeks and hasn't yet run out. The ACA (or Obamacare) has been relevant for those who are older, of course, and as they leave school and can be covered up to age 26, no matter the delay in their finding jobs, they appreciate the existence of the new law. But the shutdown? Isn't relevant in finances for most of them right now, and I haven't talked to anyone whose parents work for the federal government, at least that I know of.
So how does this affect our students? Well, for starters, the shutdown has taken a lot of websites funded by the government off line. And the "ask a librarian" and "ask a staff member" are not responding. The first person to comment on the shutdown (on Wednesday morning) was a student who said that her roommate had to completely redo a paper after the website she had used (but hadn't kept careful notes on) for her presentation had been taken down on Tuesday. (the moral of this story is always keep good records as you are doing your initial resource)
Another concern students have expressed is the fact that passports will be delayed. It seems from the State Department website that there is not a problem with this, if the passport is already "at post." However, knowing that students procrastinate and some may not have even gotten the application form downloaded or pictures taken, let alone put it into the mail, some of the students who need their passports in time for the winter break Biology Department study abroad trip may be facing a serious problem. The travel won't be a problem as TSA and air traffic controllers have been deemed "essential personnel" for obvious reasons.
I am wondering if students who live off campus will start to realize the farmers' market is a much better bet for buying produce (aside from the fact that it is a much better place for buying produce just generally) because of a lack of inspection of produce. I worry about the stuff that is bought for the dormitories. And then flu season is coming...
Then the Museums class is taking the fall break to visit a museum of their own choice. While none were planning (to my knowledge) to go as far as Washington, D.C., this next week, by Thursday (two days ago) they were quite aware that the federal facilities they might have explored (the Gateway Arch and the Truman Presidential Library) are shut down. So if those were the ones they were thinking of visiting, the opportunity is no longer available, if the government is still shut down next week.
The latter shut down facility (the Library) is affecting me personally, as well. I will be attending the meeting of the Missouri Association for Museums and Archives, which was scheduled to be at the Truman Library. They have proactively found a different venue, which is great, but the "behind the scenes" reception and tour opportunities will not be available, if the Library is still shut down.
I am glad that the field trip I scheduled for the class in a few weeks is not to any federal installation. The National World War I Museum proudly announces on its website that it is "not federally funded" so they will be open. So direct impacts for my classes will be easy to work around, should they ever become noticeable. I hope the government reopens quickly, for all of those who are adversely impacted by this idiocy in Washington. But so far, it seems the direct impact will be at least limited.
How are you and your classes coping? Has this impacted you at all?