In the wake of the recent government shutdown, some students who were planning on pursuing a career in government, politics or public service after graduation are wondering if they should find an alternative career path.
Some students are feeling discouraged about going into public service because of the shutdown, said Jacob Coate, a third-year in political science.
“When you see this kind of breakdown in the bipartisan process, it discourages a lot of students in a very indirect way,” Coate said. “Students in general do not think their government is doing an effective job at governing. I think this is very discouraging for the whole democratic process.”
The U.S. federal government was shut down for 16 days because Congress could not agree upon a new federal budget by its Oct. 1 deadline. The controversy surrounding the budget was largely a result of a debate about how the government would be funding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obama’s health care initiative, which went into effect Oct. 1 as well. The version of the budget some members of the House was pushing would not have funded Obamacare, delaying its enactment, while the Senate budget proposal included funding for the legislation.
Federal workers who fall in a category called “essential” continued working without pay, while workers in the category “non-essential” had a half-day to prepare before being furloughed, meaning they were given a temporary unpaid leave.
Coate said he is still planning to pursue a career in government and the shutdown has even encouraged him further.
“For people like me, it pushes us harder because we know the current system isn’t working as well as we know it should,” Coate said. “You need people who are willing to come to a compromise and who are willing to cross the aisle in order to get the job done.”
One alternative for those students who were planning on going into public service but now feel discouraged is to go to law school and become a lawyer, said Paul Beck, OSU professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science. He said students should try to find an alternative or stick with government.
“The number of openings for lawyers is way down from what it was,” Beck said. “There’s going to be a lot of job openings in federal, state and local governments just because that older generation is moving on. However, the openings will not come with a lot of money with the cutbacks in governmental budgets.”
The full-time employment rate for recent law school graduates decreased in the wake of the recession to 59.8 percent in 2011 from 74.1 percent in 2007, according to data from the National Association for Legal Placement.
Beck said part of the reason some students are less inclined to pursue a career in government is because they have recently seen Congress display “conflict, fighting and negativity.”
Coate said he understands where students rethinking their career choices are coming from, but he knows public service is difficult.
“I would say I wish they would change their mind, but frankly we need strong people in the government,” Coate said. “If they’re so wishy-washy that a little government shutdown drives them away, then I guess we’re better without them.”
Part of the problem is that students in general do not think very highly of the political world around them, Beck said.
“There’s a tendency for students to withdraw and to say, ‘I don’t like either party or anyone who’s in office right now so I’m just going to withdraw from politics,’” Beck said.
Between the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, voter turnout rates for people ages 18 to 29 decreased by about 6 percentage points, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
Herb Asher, OSU professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science, attributed the decrease to students not associating themselves with a specific politic party.
“Young voters may not be incentivized to vote when the main candidates are Democrat or Republican when they don’t think of themselves as a member of one of those parties as much as older people do,” Asher said. “I think a lot of students think of themselves as socially liberal and fiscally conservative.”
Coate said the shutdown has affected the minds of both government students and students in general.
“Students are thinking, ‘Why should I go vote? Why should I get I get involved in government? It doesn’t matter anyway,’” Coate said. “That’s really what this Congress has been known for, a do-nothing Congress.”
Asher said students should realize they are needed now more than ever.
“Whether it’s in elected office or in administration and bureaucracy, if the committed and good people don’t get involved, then who will?” Asher said.
There is a difference between working in public service and being an elected official, Asher said.
“There’s a lot of different kinds of public service,” Asher said. “We’re also not talking about just the obvious departments of public service like the state department or the defense department at the national level. We’re talking about needing students and young people in so many different aspects of the community.”