By GRETEL J. BACKMA
BYU has felt the impact of the government shutdowns in both its administrative and student needs. The shutdowns have hit everyone differently, but all have been affected in some way.
The Financial Aid Office has not been hurt much by the shutdown and continues to process loans and grants as usual.
Steve Olsen, federal program coordinator for Financial Aid, said while there may be slight delays for students just now applying for federal aid, the BYU Financial Aid Office is in full operation. Because Pell Grants were already appropriated in 1995, those funds have not been affected.
Alice Miller, an employee of the Department of Study Abroad who has spent many early mornings at work lately, explains a different story.
There is a group of BYU students going to London who applied for passports two months ago, she said. Those students were caught in the first government shutdown and now in the second.
“There’s nobody there to process the applications,” Miller said. “We’ve been on the phone for hours and days and weeks.”
When students call the passport offices they get a recording that explains they are closed due to the government shutdown. The passports are locked in closed offices, Miller said.
Study Abroad has contacted the highest authorities involved, including the chief immigration officer in London and the CEO of United Airlines. Both parties have agreed to let students board the airlines, Miller said, but not without individual clearance for each student.
“It’s been a hassle,” Miller said. “We’re trying to work it out. We’ve had to appeal to the highest authorities.”
Students who are about to leave for Jerusalem for Winter Semester are not affected by the shutdown because they applied for their passports months ago, the Jerusalem Center office said. However, students applying for Spring Term will be affected if the government doesn’t open up soon.
Anna Bailey, secretary for the English Language Center, tells of one student who returned home to Honduras for Christmas and now he can’t come back because the U.S. Embassy isn’t open.
“We’ve had several new students who haven’t been able to get visas from the embassy,” Bailey said. “They have already made travel plans and will lose their plane ticket money.”
One woman called Bailey from Ecuador who quit her job there so she could come to BYU. Now she can’t come here and is without a job. She’s going to try to save enough money so she can come this summer.
“It’s really sad,” Bailey said. “Returning students plan to come back. They waste a semester, time and money. I don’t know what will happen,” Bailey said.