The American press is already framing the narrative on the looming “government shutdown”.

Right on cue, higher education professionals are bracing for impact. And, while most institutions would likely feel only mild effects at first, Michael Stratford of Inside Higher Ed reports that advocates for colleges are bracing for larger funding battles.

The impending shutdown of the federal government is expected to affect higher education only modestly, at least in the short term, but the debate has already kicked off several months of unpredictable fiscal fights that threaten to further cut funding for some financial aid programs and scientific research.

The federal government will shut down on October 1 unless Congress agrees in the next five days to a stopgap spending measure to keep it open.

A lapse in funding would mean that most normal day-to-day operations of the federal government would come to a halt, though it’s not clear exactly which programs relating to higher education might continue.

The White House last week directed federal agencies, including the Education Department, to update their plans for operation during a government shutdown, but those documents have not yet been released.

“Agencies are still in the process of reviewing relevant legal requirements and updating their plans,” Emily Cain, an Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman, said in an e-mail Wednesday. “Determinations about specific programs are being actively reviewed as agencies undertake this process.”

Recent history, however, sheds some light on how agencies may proceed during a government shutdown. In anticipation of a shutdown in 2011 (which was ultimately averted at the last minute), the Education Department estimated that it would have to furlough up to 94 percent of its total staff and would call in a limited number of employees on a partial or rotating basis if the shutdown dragged on longer than a week.

Research funding may also be affected. The National Science Foundation prepared in 2011 to furlough all but 30 employees on its 2,000-person staff. Researchers with existing grants would have been allowed to continue work on their awards so long as they did not require any intervention from NSF staff. Similarly, the National Institutes of Health reported that existing extramural research grants would not be affected, though the agency said it would not provide any new awards.