UMass students and alumni reflect on impacts of government shutdown

Many are forced to make tough decisions when financial plans fall through


(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

By Rachel Swansburg, Collegian Correspondent

The 35-day 2019 government shutdown had significant and long-lasting effects for many college students. While some were required to do financial restructuring, others have had to put their education on hold entirely.

A widely-reported consequence of the shutdown was the inability to obtain financial aid for the spring semester. In a CNN report, students were unable to access financial aid documents with the InternalRevenue Service closed. Without that aid, some students were forced to take a semester off, putting them behind academically.

For Nadia Eldemery, a junior marketing major at the University of Massachusetts, the shutdown didn’t affect her immediate ability to attend school, but did damage her future plans.

“As a student, I figured I wouldn’t really be affected by the shutdown,” Eldemery said. “However, it did affect my budgeting for my semester abroad.”

Eldemery went on to explain that she was saving stock which had been left for her by her grandparents to pay for a semester in London.

“That stock has been steady for months, but when the shutdown began, it just plummeted,” she said. “This major source of income that I was relying on is just depleted – it left me to refinance everything,” Eldemery explained.

The shutdown also had a serious impact on recent graduates who were just starting careers in their respective fields.

Brian Mutai, a 2018 graduate from UMass, recently began work in a full-time position at the Hadley Fish and Wildlife Service. With parents who live across the country in the state of Washington, Mutai had been working to pay his own bills and save what he could on the side. As a new hire, Mutai had also been traveling to receive training for employee and labor relations. He was still waiting on reimbursement for those trips when the government shut down.

“Life has been stressful,” Mutai said. “I’ve been racking up credit card debt to stay on top of my bills, and I just signed up to drive for Uber. I’m going to send my resume around, but I’m hoping for better days ahead.”

Mutai says that he has plans for the future, but that none of them involve continued work for the government.

“I plan on going to grad school during my career as a HR Specialist and then leaving the federal government after that,” Mutai said. “I can’t imagine going through a shutdown in the future if I became the sole provider of a family, especially when I’m seeing how this shutdown has affected my other coworkers.”

Naaz Sheikh, another 2018 UMass graduate, said that, while he hasn’t been personally impacted by the government shutdown, he’s been moved by the way it has affected others. As a software developer, Sheikh said that he’s interested in how technology has played a role in the public’s response to the shutdown.

“I really do hope that this government shutdown sparks more interest in young people running for office,” Sheikh said. “The people in power are out of touch with the effects of the shutdown, and it’s really starting to show.”

Sheikh explained his belief that social media may be the key to young people making headway in upcoming elections.

“I think that advances in social media, if harnessed properly by the youth, can really level the playing field between grassroots campaigns and campaigns with million-dollar backings. The whole shutdown situation is infuriating, but these struggles may be bringing forth a new wave of congressmen and activists.”

Rachel Swansburg can be reached at [email protected]