Government Shutdown

A run-down of the shutdown 

KORTNEY STEVENS, Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong 

The longest government shut down in the history of the United States ended Jan. 25, at least temporarily. 

It had real consequences for federal workers and their families, including third-year UAS student Emily Schwartz, whose husband is in the U.S. Coast Guard. Though he had to work, he was not paid during the 35-day partial shutdown. 

Schwartz, a full-time student in fisheries and ocean science, said it was a very stressful time as she and her husband contemplated a second job to make ends meet.

“We’ve been selling things out of our home like clothes and random stuff,” Schwartz said in an interview as President Donald Trump announced the government would reopen.  “My husband comes home from work and says that every day is becoming more and more of a mess. After the three weeks, if the government shuts down again then we are back to wondering where our next pay check is going to come from.” 

Trump said the government may close again on Feb. 15, if Congress does not reach an agreement to fund a wall at the southern border of the U.S. 

During the government shutdown, the UAS Student Accounts/Bursar’s office helped students avoid being de-registered because they were unable to pay tuition on time, said UAS Vice Chancellor Michael Ciri. The UAS food bank was also open and other services were available.  

“We are committed to working with our students to ensure their continued success,” Ciri said in an email to UAS students. 

Government is a major employer in Alaska. According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, 14,600 Alaskans worked for the federal government in December 2018, excluding the military (preliminary figures). 

Any college student dependent on a U.S. government worker could be affected by a partial closure. 

Thankfully for students, the government shut down did not impair eligibility for federal loans, according to a Dec. 22, 2018 article by DJ Wetzel in The College Investor. (https://thecollegeinvestor.com/9889/the-government-shutdown-and-your-student-loans/)

Funds for federal Pell Grants, Direct student loans, and other grants were still available, Wetzel said. FAFSA could still be processed, and most U.S. Department of Education financial aid websites were working. Private companies that collect student loan payments were unaffected, so loans were due on time.  

But Wetzel had some bad news: Consolidation loan applications were on hold, customer service was unavailable, and delinquent student loans were still being reported to credit bureaus. He also said paperwork continues to pile up during a shutdown, so processing loan applications for next school year could be slow. 

 If the U.S. government shuts down again in mid-February, it’s expected the impacts would be similar.   

The shutdown did not affect financial aid to veterans, veterans’ scholarships, or housing aid to veterans. According to the Veterans Administration website (VA.gov), “The Department of Veterans Affairs is fully funded for fiscal year 2019 and remains fully operational during the partial government shutdown.” 

UAS Career Services Coordinator Deborah Rydman said a total of 111 veterans are enrolled at the University of Alaska Southeast, the University of Alaska Anchorage, and University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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