What the federal shutdown means for PSU

The government shutdown began earlier this month, and many students are left wondering how this will affect life at PSU. While most financial aid and loans for this academic year shouldn’t be disrupted, students receiving veteran or military education benefits may need to take immediate action. Grant-funded and class-required research may be affected as well.

In an email sent out on October 3, Ray Facundo, Coordinator of Student Veterans Services, urged students receiving veteran or military education benefits to ensure that their bases are covered. He warned that while the US Department of Veterans Affairs has funding available, a prolonged shutdown would cause them to exhaust their funds. According to the VA, this will affect 500,000 students nationally.

Eligible students are required to submit a certification form detailing their enrollment and course schedule to the Veterans Certification Office. “It is very important that they certify their fall education benefits as soon as possible,” Facundo wrote. “Many have done so already, but many may have had difficulty registering or are on wait lists for classes, so they have not yet certified with the VA.”

As of Monday morning, 693 student veterans have certified for fall term at PSU. While the number is expected to reach 900, the VA, which holds the funds and pays schools directly once students complete their certification process, only has enough funding to guarantee claims through late October.

Due to the shutdown, the VA’s Education Benefits hotline has also been suspended. Students should contact PSU’s Veterans Resource Center for support and more details.

According to PSU media relations coordinator Suzanne Pardington, unless the government shutdown is an extensive one, federally-funded research at PSU and other institutions will not be impacted. However, any research projects that require federal staff or access to federal buildings, such as the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University, will lose their access to these resources. PSU is also unable to submit any new federal grant proposals during the shutdown, which could delay or cancel certain projects.

“The whole situation is particularly challenging for ‘up and coming’ research universities like PSU,” said Jonathan Fink, vice president of Research & Strategic Partnerships at PSU. “These universities have a harder time competing for grants than some of our better-endowed competitors.”

The PSU library has also pointed out that students may need to find alternatives to government-run websites as sources for research. “A number of government resources are down that we’ve come to rely on,” Claudia Weston, PSU’s Government Information Librarian said.

Information that is no longer electronically available due to the shutdown includes census data, USDA agricultural research, and the National Center for Educational Statistics. “We’re looking to fill that void with commercial and print sources,” Weston said.

While the shutdown of these sources may only directly affect a small group of people, Weston believes that this problem reflects a larger issue. “It points to the volatility of the data we depend on, and highlights how much we’ve come to depend on it,” Weston said. “We need to think about what we’re going to do as we rely more and more on digital data.”