What You Need to Know in the Event of a Federal Government Shutdown

What You Need to Know in the Event of a Federal Government Shutdown

President Patricia McGuire sent the following e-mail to the Trinity community on April 7, 2011.
TO:  The Trinity Community
RE:  What You Need to Know in the Event of a Federal Government Shutdown

As of this writing, late in the day on Thursday, April 7, the chances of a federal government shutdown tomorrow night are increasingly serious.  The potential shutdown is because the Congress and White House cannot agree on the federal budget.  You can read a great deal about the politics involved in many online sources.  We don’t know how long it might last, but in the past these shutdowns have lasted from a few days to several weeks.  Eventually, the politicians see the light and reach agreement.  In the past, the impact on Trinity was very slight, if anything.  But prudence requires us to plan.

The most important questions right now center upon how the potential government shutdown might affect Trinity students, faculty, staff and other constituents.  We’ve tried to distill the top questions that are likely to be on your minds with answers below.  You should also stay abreast of the details via information on WTOP and the Washington Post.  WTOP has some especially helpful information for the general public and also for federal workers.

Here are the top Frequently Asked Questions for how the shutdown might affect Trinity:

1. Will classes occur at Trinity during a government shutdown?
Yes.  All classes and other events on campus will go on as scheduled.  We expect all students, faculty and staff to go about their Trinity business as usual.

2. Will Metro run so that I can get to class?
Yes, so far as we have been able to determine, Metro rail and bus service will continue on normal schedules.  For updates, please check the Metro website.

3.  Will my internship still occur at the federal agency that is hosting my internship?
Possibly not if your internship is with Congress, the White House or a federal agency, but you should check with the on-site internship supervisor to make sure.  Please follow the rules that the agency gives you.  For example, many federal workers are not allowed to use their federal email addresses or PDAs during the shutdown.  Please know the rules for your agency and follow them carefully to avoid any problems.

4.  If my internship is interrupted, how will that affect my grade this semester?
Please notify the faculty member who is supervising your internship if you are unable to report to your internship site.  Faculty members, please report any internship interruptions to your respective deans and Provost Broaddus so that we can keep track of the extent of the interruptions, which will help us to determine the best response in each case based on how much work was remaining.

5.  My regular job is in the federal government, so I might not be paid and this might affect my Trinity financial obligations.  What should I do?
If you have an outstanding balance on a payment plan, and if you are concerned that your job interruption might affect your ability to pay the balance of your tuition in a timely way, please visit with our terrific staff in Enrollment Services who will help you to create a new plan to get past this period of interruption.

We also realize that a shutdown could cause other kinds of financial hardship for students who work in the government or related entities, e.g., the Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo, etc., and it’s possible that related private industries such as tourmobiles, hotels and restaurants could suffer some impact.

If you are concerned about your financial condition during the shutdown, please consult with our staff — Enrollment Services, advisors, the deans.  We are here to help you.  We need to know how you are affected so that we can help you with a game plan to get through the shutdown.

Please note that most government shutdowns do not last long, and most government workers recover their lost wages fairly quickly.  We cannot predict what will happen this time, of course, but we do expect that some students will feel the impact of the crisis, and we want you to know that we are here to support you as possible.

6.  Will a shutdown affect my Pell Grant, federal student loan, or other financial aid?
If you have already completed all of your payment arrangements and financial aid filings for this academic semester, you should be fine.  If you have completed your paperwork for next semester (FAFSA), you should also be fine.   If you have waited until now to think about your paperwork, you may experience a delay in financial aid processing at the level of the U.S. Department of Education.  If you have any financial aid concerns during this time, please consult with the team in Enrollment Services.

7.  Will District of Columbia financial aid, programs and services be affected?
We are hearing that a variety of D.C. programs and services may be interrupted in a government shutdown since D.C.’s operating budget depends heavily on federal funds. We are monitoring the likely impact and will let you know as we learn details, and please let us know if you have a direct impact that we have not mentioned.  Today’s news reports indicate, for example, that the University of the District of Columbia might be shut down if the federal government shut down occurs, so please check the UDC website if you have classes there.

You may have other questions — yes, exams will go on as scheduled! — please send them to me or ask your advisors or deans, and we will respond as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, the spring season is blooming all over campus — so get out and enjoy the sunshine!  This government crisis will pass!

Patricia McGuire
Trinity Washington University