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October 01, 2013

(Flickr: eschipul)

The federal government has shut down, so now what? What does the gridlock in Washington mean for students and faculty in the land of higher ed?

It might be too soon to say, but with no end in sight here’s what we know so far.

The National Institutes of Health, which provides the majority of higher education’s research funding, has suspended its operations, potentially undermining long-term college and university projects. WGBH News has heard from some researchers at institutions in Boston and across our region who are concerned about their funding. In July, On Campus reported on how cutbacks on university research funding could stifle innovation:

With federal and state budgets tight, university research funding has been increasingly hard to find in the U.S, and that doesn’t come without consequences. Higher education advocates are pointing to UMass Medical's striking scientific breakthrough as an example of why the government ought to keep investing in research.

Listen to this story:

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the government shutdown won’t affect student aid and student loans:

The shutdown would not disrupt the awarding of student aid or the servicing of student loans, at least in the short term, according to the Education Department's contingency plan. Commercial student-loan servicers and other contractors could continue to work for "some short period of time," but they would have to wait to be paid, and no new contracts would be awarded.

Colleges with government grants could continue their work.

But a lapse of longer than a week could "severely curtail the cash flow" to those colleges with federal grants, according to the contingency plan. Colleges rely on federal funds to pay staff members who run programs for disadvantaged students seeking to enter and stay in college.

Meanwhile, at the Department of Education, more than 4,000 employees – 90 percent of the workforce – are facing furloughs today. The Department shut down its Homeroom Blog indefinitely, citing budget cuts.

A week after adjunct faculty at Tufts University voted to form a union, labor leaders tell us part-time professors at Bentley University will delay a similar vote because the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that counts the ballots, is closed due to "a lapse in appropriated funds."

What effects are you seeing on campus? Let us know in the comments section below.

gridlock, higher ed, college, confronting cost, tuition, student loans, research funding

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