February 7, 2007

C.U. Avoids Work-Study Cuts

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A new study from the University of California at Los Angeles has shown that an increasing number of college freshmen are looking for on-campus employment as a means of financing their college education.

The study, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, found that 29 percent of student respondents would use at least a portion of their earnings from a part-time campus job to pay for tuition expenses, up from 25.8 percent in 2000.

An increasing student interest in on-campus employment, though, has not yielded an increase in funds for the federal work-study program, which allocates money to colleges to pay students with financial need for part-time on-campus work.

According to a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, FWS funds decreased this academic year by almost $10 million. The funding cut has affected schools like Rutgers University dramatically: the recipient of 4.4 million FWS dollars in 2001-02, Rutgers, got only $3.5 million dollars this year.

While some schools may be feeling the fiscal strains of a decreasing FWS budget, Cornell is not one of them. According to Bridget Foster, senior associate director of student employment, the University has all the FWS money it needs.

“Cornell has received the same FWS allocation for the last five years,” Foster said in an e-mail. “There may be a decrease in the allocation for next year, but that information has not yet been shared with us … and at this time we do not anticipate a decrease.”

Additionally, Foster said, Cornell has not seen an increase in student demand for on-campus employment on par with the findings of the UCLA study.

“We have not seen a noticeable increase in the number of students who refuse loan and ask for additional FWS eligibility, nor have we seen the reverse,” Foster said. “The recent increases to Cornell’s Student Hourly Wage Scale in conjunction with the increases to the [New York State] minimum wage over the last three years has not had a noticeable impact on the number of student jobs available on-campus, nor on total earnings reported at the end of the fiscal year.”

Indeed, Darla Critchfield, student supervisor at Uris Library, reported receiving about the same number of student applications this year as she has in the past.

“There are actually less applications [this semester] than there are typically,” Critchfield said.

Student employment at Uris is restricted to applicants with FWS. As Critchfield explained, her student employees have received a fairly consistent allocation of FWS dollars over the last few years, generally in the range of $1,800 – $2,200.

“I only had to turn down one student who was only allowed about $200 for the year,” Critchfield said. “Besides that, I haven’t had trouble hiring students with federal work-study.”

Cornell may not have experienced the same increase in FWS applications as the rest of the country did, but on-campus employment remains an important part of college for many Cornell students.

Meg Ausen ’09 works in Catherwood Library and Olin Café as a federal work-study employee, and says that her job is a vital part of her life as a student.

“Mainly, I use the money I make to pay for my credit card bills, because I pay for everything myself,” Ausen said.

Work represents a significant time commitment, Ausen continued, especially for freshmen still acquainting themselves with the rigors of college life.

“It was hard at first,” Ausen said, “but it’s gotten easier. I knew I needed to work, so I just did it.”

Viviana Flores ’07, a part-time employee at Olin Library who also receives FWS, agreed that on-campus jobs are a good way to make money while in college. The hours are flexible, she said, and the wages “are fair.”

“I wouldn’t complain,” Flores said. “The hours aren’t even so bad, because the library only requires you to work a minimum of six hours a week. I work the hours I need and still have time to get my schoolwork done.”