Most students are not feeling the weight of the government shutdown directly, however, a select few at Western — as well as some faculty — are feeling it directly.
Those students who were selected for verification that have already completed their forms do not need to worry, but, those who waited may face an obstacle. Director of Finance Marilyn Baker said:
“We were just talking about the IRS, so that will indirectly then impact students because if they still have not completed the verification process in our office, if their file was selected for verification, we have to require the IRS tax return transcript form. It comes directly from the IRS: we can no longer accept 1040Es or 1040EZs. It has to come directly from the IRS, and if their offices are closed, it is impossible for students and parents to get IRS transcripts. So, it will definitely impact those students.”
As far as Pell grants and things of that nature, in the short-term, they won’t be affected, said Professor of Economics, Reza Hamzaee.
“Well, students who are depending on Pell grants for example, or Federal Assistance, those checks are already distributed and we don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “So to a large extent, students are not really being affected.”
The biggest hit for Western is in the federally funded research. Most of those funds are being held until after the shutdown ends, and much of the information that they rely on is unavailable until further notice.
“When it comes to, let’s say, prospective scholarships and research activities, some of those are already halted. In my case, for my research, I rely on a lot of government sources. Today, at 6 in the morning, I was searching for certain sites for research that I am doing, and relying on the census bureau and Federal Government, and there was a message on there which was very interesting in how fast things have transpired and this is what I read,” Hamzaee said. “’Due to the lapse in government funding, census.gov sites, services and all online census survey requests will be unavailable until further notice.’ So, some grant monies that we apply for may be postponed.”
The immediate effects are going to be subtle for most of us, but long-term effects may hit a little harder depending on how long the shutdown lasts. Western isn’t the only university to have some of its research put on hold; it is a problem for universities at a national level.
“Maybe for the future, as opposed to immediately, I would say potential impacts to federal funding or scholarships and grants will not be immediate. Pell grant money has already been distributed, but I had read about National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation have notified that they have disabled their electronic research administration systems, so any proposal deadlines that occur during the shutdown are postponed until the government reopens,” he said.
Meaning that any university that utilizes the data in their research is being affected, similarly to Western.
The biggest hit for us is that a lot of our research is in the wildlife and conservation areas, specifically Squaw Creek, and since it is a federal reserve it has been temporarily shut down.
Assistant Professor of Biology, Mark Mills, explains our relationship with Squaw Creek.
“We do a lot of things with Squaw Creek. We do research out there, our students do internships out there, we help them out with things like deer spot-lighting and a lot of other activities, and so, all of that has stopped until further notice,” he said.
They are not allowing anyone access and all of the employees are effectively laid off.
“The gates are locked; you cannot get onto the refuge,” he said. “The main gates are locked, the visitor center is closed and what is kind of sad is all of the employees are on furlough without pay.”
A lot of his research is ongoing research, and is now going to suffer from this interruption.
“I mean, we have ongoing research, so for example, I’m radio tracking turtles at Squaw Creek and I can’t do that,” Mills said. “I mean, so I have turtles and I don’t know what they are doing. Normally we go up or somebody goes up and tracks them a couple times a week and that’s not going to happen. It’s a huge inconvenience for us; definitely, it’s harder on the actual employees.”