When we read or hear about the federal shutdown in the media, we learn that it is due to the inability of our politicians to compromise, that all federal employees who are not considered essential are subject to a furlough, and that national parks and museums usually close. Yet, one may ask, how such shutdowns affect higher education. After all, most of higher education – including student aid – is supported directly or indirectly by the federal government.
To begin with, we need to remember that although no new federal dollars can be spent during a shutdown, money that has already been approved, such as for student-aid programs or research grants, is still available. The same can be said about spending mandated by law, such as the Pell Grant Program, money for federal direct student loans, and benefits paid through the Department of Veterans Affairs.