It might be too early to tell what significant impacts this week’s government shutdown will have on the country, but students and faculty at USC have already been affected.
David Brown, associate senior vice president of the USC Office of Federal Relations, said that though USC has experienced only minimal effects in the last few days, there are three areas that receive federal funding that could be impacted: research, education and healthcare.
Receiving future federal grants for research in departments such as energy or security could become more difficult, Brown said. Research grants that projects have received will continue to be funded, but new grant opportunities have been halted.
In addition, federal student aid for the spring semester and beyond could be altered. According to the U.S. Department of Education, most of the grants and aid have already been extended for the 2013 semester.
In Washington, the conflict largely came about because of partisan disagreement on the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.” Republicans and Democrats at USC also have different takes on the shutdown.
Giuseppe Robalino, director of political affairs and strategy for the USC College Republicans, sees the university as already being adequately prepared financially due to its large endowment.
“I think [USC is] very prepared to step in for the federal government if the students are having trouble with loans,” he said.
Brown also said that reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid patients could be affected by the shutdown. Though the university will still receive funds for medical education training, its medical center’s ability to reimburse some patients will be hindered.
If the shutdown lasts more than two to three weeks, it will have an impact on research funds and student aid, according to Brown. The change in cash flow from the federal government will inhibit competition for new research opportunities.
“It’s intensely problematic for universities like USC, especially as it applies to our research enterprise and our students, and I hope the Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate can come to an agreement to fund the government in 2013,” Brown said.
Though USC is safe from dependencies such as research grants from the federal government, President of the USC College Democrats Catherine Shieh said the university will still be impacted.
“The federal court is no longer functioning the way it used to,” Shieh said.
Individual students have also been impacted in various ways. Some who work for the federal government might not be able to go to work.
Karla Robinson, a senior majoring in print and digital journalism, agreed that the shutdown will take a toll on government jobs.
“They’re saying it could last weeks, and I just don’t think that’s realistic for people who have to work weeks without getting any pay,” Robinson said.
Robinson herself was affected by the shutdown in a different way. She had planned to go to Sequoia National Park with SC Outfitters, but her trip was cancelled after the national parks closed down.
“I made plans with friends and was going to loan someone my car and I got my work cleared so I could leave early,” she said of her former plans.
Robinson also said the closure of national parks affected one of her professors.
“My photography teacher has contracts with the national parks to take pictures,” she said. “So for his job specifically, it’s been mayhem because all the parks are closing and he has deadlines to get these pictures in for certain publications.”
In the meantime, USC and the Office of Federal Relations will monitor the issue and work with members of the California congressional delegation to resolve the issue.
“I was a little disheartened, and it finally started to sink in, how deeply divided we are,” Robalino said. “These are issues that they’ve had with Obamacare for weeks, months and years now. It’s something that could have been resolved.”
Shieh was also disappointed with the government’s lack of accountability.
“They are not doing the skeleton of the responsibilities either,” she said. “These people should essentially be publicly shamed for the way that this is happening.”
Shieh recommended that USC students speak up and call their home Congress members, saying that something must be done.
“It is from a public uproar that these leaders will be reactionary,” she said.
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