Government Shutdown Raises Concerns About Student Loans, Research Grants, Visa Sponsorships

Harvard affiliates may soon face the consequences of the American spending and debt crises, most notably in areas related to research, student loans, and visa sponsorship.

As the U.S. reached its spending limit Tuesday morning and will reach its borrowing limit in a few weeks, concerns are surfacing regarding the impact of the country failing to pay its outstanding bills at institutions such as Harvard.

“Routine payments to grant student loans and research aid would not proceed at the same pace, if at all, if the government shutdown lasts longer than a few weeks,” said government professor Theda R. Skocpol.

Many of the federal grants received by Harvard are used for research across multiple fields. Economics professor Eric S. Maskin ’72 said that he received an email from the National Science Foundation, which stated that the Foundation will close in the event of a shutdown.

“For the Harvard professor that would mean if you already had a grant, you would not immediately be affected since the money has most likely already been transferred to Harvard, but if you are applying for a grant, you will have to wait for your grant to be processed,” Maskin said.

As a result, Maskin said that many new research projects may not be able to begin if federal funding has not already been secured.

“Many aspects of what we do at Harvard rely on federal funding,” said economics professor Benjamin M. Friedman '66. “Students, especially those involved in scientific research, would be affected if research must stop because of lack of funding.”

The government shutdown could also potentially impact a wide array of federal agencies due to lack of funding.

“In the event of a government shutdown, visas and passports, which many students and professors rely on, will not be processed,” Skocpol said, adding that this would prevent students and professors from receiving visa and passport renewals for some time.

“I want students to know that the debt ceiling crisis is political and not fiscal, so students have the power to vote in elections and potentially change the political environment,” Skocpol said.

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