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Government impact on a private school

Photo by Kit Weber

By Erin Ross

Staff reporter

emross@owu.edu

Ohio Wesleyan University faculty expressed relief in minimal effects from the recent government shutdown but holds concern about the effects of a possible part two.

Despite being a privately funded university, OWU depends on the federal government for financial aid and research funds. The university was able to avoid any detrimental effects from the shutdown, yet is unsure if such luck will last.

Kevin Paskvan, director of Financial Aid, said the university’s financial aid is fully funded for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years and that OWU has not seen any negative financial effects from the shutdown thus far.

“Federal Student Aid is also what they deem as an essential department and federal workers are still required to work,” Paskvan said. “We haven’t seen any negative impact at Ohio Wesleyan.”

Although no direct funding issues occurred, there were some complications within database matching, Paskvan said.  

“On some Fall 2019 admits we have seen some database matching issues for male students regarding selective service,” Paskvan said.

He explained how the office was still able to generate financial aid packages, but that they must fix the issue before they disburse funds.

“Federal Student Aid will reprocess these FAFSA mismatches now that the government has reopened,” Paskvan said. “Even if the government was shut down we could look the students up on the Selective Service website to clear the issue.”

The Financial Aid Office also received guidance from Federal Student Aid in the process of verification for students who were selected to be audited but could not get a tax transcript, Paskvan said.

Paskvan encouraged any students at the university whose families have experienced financial effects from the shutdown to reach out to their financial aid counselor.

In addition to the Financial Aid Office, scientists and researchers at the university discussed the impact that the shutdown had on their funding.

Chris Wolverton, professor of Botany-Microbiology, explained how he receives federal funding for his research endeavors at OWU.

“I have a NASA grant to study plant gravity perception,” Wolverton said. “We carried out a successful experiment on the International Space Station in 2017-2018 and are now in the process of extracting RNA to study differential gene expression in the plants from space.”

Beyond a lack of communication with research centers, Wolverton’s research was not negatively impacted by the government shutdown.

“The shutdown timing was fortuitous for my research project since it fell at a time that I did not require lots of interaction with my supporting team at NASA Ames Research Center and NASA Kennedy Space Center,” Wolverton said. “The main effect for this recent shutdown was that I did not get timely feedback on some questions I had.”

On a grant, NASA distributes funds in small intervals rather than all at once, so a need for more funds at a greater rate could have led to issues, Wolverton said.  

Despite avoiding any major funding issues throughout the longest U.S. government shutdown in history, Wolverton expressed concern for possible issues in the future.

“We have several large upcoming expenses though, and I’m slightly concerned that we will not have the next installment of our funding when those come if there is a part two to this shutdown,” Wolverton said.

In addition to personal research funds, Wolverton expressed general concern for the negative effects that the government shutdown could have on research throughout the nation.

“There is so much important research done every day in this nation that is funded by the system of federal grants …” Wolverton said. “When the funding dries up, even for a short period, it can have devastating impacts on progress, especially for long-term projects that require data collection every day or on a very time-sensitive schedule.”

Robert Haring-Kaye, professor of Physics and Astronomy and principal investigator for OWU’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, shared similar concern for the effect on research.

“I’ve heard concern from principle investigators at other institutions who are still waiting to hear if their REU proposal has been funded this year,” Haring-Kaye said. “The shutdown has delayed this process and they are uncertain what to do.”

Due to the security of funds through a three-year grant awarded in 2017, the government shutdown did not impact OWU’s REU program, Haring-Kaye said.

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