News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 17, 2019
Government shutdown forces postponement of Coast Guard exams

by Monique Labbe

Seniors signed up to take the United States Coast Guard exams in January at Maine Maritime Academy now find themselves in limbo, as the exams were postponed due to the partial United States government shutdown, which began in December.

The exams, referred to as “Coasties” by the students, were scheduled to begin the week of January 7, a week before regular classes resumed for the second semester. The exams run for four days and include 24 hours of testing across multiple sections. Many students spent their winter break preparing, only to find out they would not be able to take the tests.

“It was definitely frustrating when we found out that the exams were being pushed back. We all had believed that they would be pushed to our spring break [in March], but continued to study with the little hope we had,” said Makayla Lewis, a Marine Transportations Operations major.

The tests have been pushed to the March break, forcing students to prepare for them again on top of their regular school assignments, classes and labs. The postponement does not just mean that the students have to wait to take the tests, but, should the shutdown last through March and postpone the tests again, it could affect the students abilities to obtain their Coast Guard licenses.

“That would have an effect on the students’ abilities to apply for work after graduation, and can also affect the underclassmen who do their cadet shipping over the summer. They cannot do those without the proper credentials, and the tests are a part of that,” said David Gardner, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Maine Maritime Academy.

Gardner said he was in daily communication with representatives from the Coast Guard in Boston throughout the weeks leading up to the testing, and a plan is already in place that if the shutdown continues into March and the students are still unable to take those exams, there will be room for them to take the tests in Boston immediately after graduation.

“They have been incredibly helpful through this process,” said Gardner. “We share the same frustrations. This is out of their control as much as it is ours.”

Lewis said that while she and her fellow students continue to be frustrated about the disruption, the effects should not be dire as long as the tests are able to be taken in March.

“The only issue I see it presenting myself is that other maritime academies may receive their license prior to MMA, which would allow them to obtain jobs prior to us. I know a few of my classmates have issues as they are going on the school trip to the Philippines this spring break. Those individuals, from what I’ve heard, will either have to be out the money they have already spent or take their license exams after they graduate,” she said.

Spring break, and subsequently the exams, is scheduled for March 4-8.