The government just completed its first fully open week of 2019 and 800,000 furloughed federal employees returned to work on Monday.
Technically starting in 2018 and spanning two iterations of Congress, the 35-day shutdown came to an end on Friday, Jan. 25, after President Donald Trump and lawmakers reached a three-week deal to reopen the federal government — something that seemed inconceivable up until the moment it happened.
While media outlets around the country have been chronicling the hardships of both furloughed federal workers and beneficiaries of government services that were temporarily closed, institutions like Utica College were also not immune to the far-reaching effects of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
As students across the country returned to classes after winter break, multiple payment complications, largely resulting from students whose parents were furloughed government employees that had missed the previous months paychecks, ensued. This was largely the case for some Utica College students, according to Vice President of Student Life and Student Engagement Jeffery Gates.
Gates confirmed that a small number of students spoke with him concerning their ability to make spring tuition payments due to their parents being furloughed from their federal jobs. The students in question were given accommodations based on their needs so that they could begin classes on Jan. 14.
Gates could not provide any other information to The Tangerine related to the shutdown’s impact, including the total number of students affected and their identities, due to student privacy concerns.
While Congress now has two weeks to agree on another bill to keep the government funded, the fate of the president’s long-promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexico still looms.
However, this does not guarantee a government shutdown will go back into effect in the coming weeks, said Luke Perry, a professor of government and politics.
Despite his refusal to concede $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall, Perry explained that the president will most likely be “inclined” to sign a funding agreement in order to avoid another partial government shutdown.
“It’s clearly not a good thing to have a shutdown, and we’re coming off the longest shutdown in U.S. history,” Perry said. “And this is the second time the government shut down since Donald Trump became president.”
Citing public opinion polls that indicated the majority of the American public placed responsibility for the shutdown on the president and Republicans, Perry said that it is “more likely than not” that Trump will pursue funding for a wall by trying to declare a national emergency at the southern border. While the legalities of such an action remain unclear, Trump had referenced declaring a national emergency at the southern border to circumvent the need for funding from Congress.
Politically, it is unclear how the shutdown will affect the president going forward, especially as the 2020 election season looms.
Considering the federal government’s role as the country’s largest employer, Perry does not see furloughed workers forgetting the uncertainty they faced during the government shutdown. However, the long-term impact of the shutdown on the president’s reelection hopes is still unclear given the potential for future major political developments.
“A year and a half from now, the political landscape could be very different,” Perry said. “Between now and then, the investigation by Robert Mueller is going to be concluded and communicated publicly in some way, and that could really reset the political landscape in a lot of different ways.”
In the meantime, Perry expects Trump will continue to advocate for a wall along the southern border during next week’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
“I don’t think he’s going to be shy about expressing criticism towards his opponents on this or other issues because that’s how he (Trump) tends to communicate publicly,” Perry said. “When you look at the State of the Union, I’d think he would reiterate his support for [a border wall] and why he thinks it’s necessary.”