By Karli Mauldin
With the U.S. government reaching its 11th day of a partial shutdown, Troy University is feeling the impact.
Lance Tatum, the vice chancellor for the university’s Global Campus, said tuition assistance for all five military branches has been suspended, effective Oct. 1.
Term 2 of online classes, which starts Oct. 14, will not be covered for the military branches by tuition assistance, and on Sept. 30 at 11:59 p.m. the Army portal through which students register was shut down, so no one else could register.
“Troy caps the tuition rate for active military on eTROY,” Tatum said. “The tuition price for eTROY is $308 for students and $250 for active-duty military. TA pays up to $250, so they receive full tuition.”
Tatum said only a small group is registered for Term 2, and many were unable to register.
If the budget crisis is not resolved by the first day of Term 2, students serving in the armed forces may be have to decide how they’re going to pay for school.
Tatum said he’s currently working to make a plan with Chancellor Jack Hawkins on how to help the active-duty military students receive the full tuition they’ve been promised.
“With the (federal) debt issue looming, we’re probably in for another several weeks of fighting,” Tatum said in reference to congressional negotiations. “I think we will try to do everything we can to try and reimburse students.”
Tatum also said the 9/11 GI Bill was not affected in the shutdown, and several active-duty members are trying to apply for the veterans’ benefits, but not all will qualify.
Jason Messick, a Veterans Affairs (VA) financial aid counselor, said the VA will have enough funding until Oct. 31, and after then he is not sure how the payments will work.
“It could delay post-9/11 benefits,” he said. “They may not get it on Oct. 31, but maybe sometime after that. The VA has only set aside essential personnel to work during the shutdown. They’re working with a skeleton crew because they don’t have enough money to pay everyone. A lot of people are just at home waiting to be called back to work after the shutdown.”
Travis McCullough, another VA financial aid counselor, agreed that there is a lot of uncertainty with the shutdown when it comes to the VA.
“It’s a terrible thing, and it’s affecting a lot of people,” he said. “Hopefully, they can come to a solution soon and get things right. As far as who’s right and who’s wrong, I really don’t know.”
Kyle Hudson, a Troy local and a graduate student studying international relations with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Troy, said it’s ludicrous that the government shut down when the two political parties couldn’t negotiate any kind of solution to fix the overall problem.
“It seems to be more popular for the government to fight,” Hudson said. “The president is listening to his own party and not the American people. He’s taking their position against the rest of the country, and the Republicans have done the same thing.”
He said that the United States government has made a mockery of how democracy works and that it’s no longer the main idea, but it’s about who’s popular and who can smear the other one the best.
“It’s done nothing but catalyze this new notion of bad-face politics,” he said. “The system was designed to where people have to work together in order to provide necessary elements to the people. They need to find a solution to make it work.”
“I think that shutdown of the government is ridiculous,” said Ashley Lampley, a freshman nursing major from Hoover. “From my understanding, the Republican Party wants to veto Obamacare, so they’re holding bars on the government until things get changed.
“Frankly I think that the health care bill will help a lot of Americans. Change some parts of the bill? Yes. But canceling the entire plan will just not work. I don’t think it’s fair for
the American people, specifically the ones working government jobs to not be paid.”
Economists at Troy University commented on the shutdown, which resulted largely from a dispute about whether to fund Obamacare, the new health insurance law.
“I think a lot of being shut down is strategically chosen to inflict as much burden on the regular users of these services,” said Daniel Smith, assistant
professor of political economics. “Instead of cutting all the areas that we know of that government could save money on, they’re choosing to cut money
on where they’re going to hurt
people so that we will feel it.”
Smith pointed out that since 2002, government spending has increased by 40 percent.
“The recent Economic Freedom of the World Annual Report was just released, and in the last few years, the United States has fallen from second in economic freedom to 17th,” Smith said.
“Unfortunately even with this, I don’t think a serious reform will be made. We will not see either political party make drastic cuts in funding. I think we’re going to get short-term, Band-Aid solutions, and this debate will come up again and again.”
Smith said the United States have just as little economic freedom as Greece, Portugal and Spain if nothing is fixed in the near future.
“They’ve overpromised money through unsustainable programs such as Medicare and Social Security,” he said. “We’re going to face serious consequences down the road. All of this money is going to have to come from taxation, or the government is going to have to take back some of the promises they’ve made. It would be nice to see politicians stand up and say, ‘I’m not going to grant special favors or make problems just to win elections.’ ”
While estimates of the national debt have been anywhere from $12 trillion to $17 trillion, Smith said the actual amount is at a high $211 trillion, which includes Social Security, Medicare and other benefits the government has promised.
He cited an NPR report that nearly 78 million baby boomers are to collect money from Social Security and other unfunded liabilities within the next 15 to 20 years, which is about $40,000 a person. If you multiply 78 million by $40,000, that’s more than $3 trillion a year just to give to a small portion of the population.
Smith said he doesn’t think the government is actually giving the factual debt numbers to the world.
George Crowley, another assistant professor of economics, said a lot of what the government has shut down is largely for show.
“I think the shutdown is an opportunity to see that what the government does is not very essential when it comes to day-to-day operations,” Crowley said.
“While 800,000 people are being furloughed by the shutdown, it seems to go unnoticed, which means that the government must have a lot more going on. It’s a pure political game that’s being played in Congress.”
Smith and Crowley have both signed a new petition known as the Intergenerational Financial Obligations Reform Act (The INFORM Act). According to its website, www.theinformact.org, the INFORM Act would require the government to change its accounting procedures.
Fourteen Nobel laureates in economics have signed this, along with six Troy University professors.
At the College Republicans meeting here on Tuesday, Oct. 8, Troy Towns, the Montgomery County Republican vice president, gave his views about the shutdown.
“I hope the House (of Representatives) holds, that they hold strong,” he said. “I think it’s going to turn for the American people’s favor if they hold the line. My goal with what they do is to get the mandate for Obamacare to be held off for a year, so the next election would literally be a referendum on the bill.”