Work-study woes

The government must work to minimize any future cuts to the Federal Work-Study Program.

Luis Ruuska

As November draws to a close, I have a folder full of countless cover letters, writing samples, resumes and references, and I still have nothing to show for it.

I had no idea looking for a work-study job would be so stressful. These days, I visit the University of Minnesota’s online employment system as often as social networking sites.

Ultimately, I can’t say I’m surprised. After all, there are only so many job postings each week, and with a heavily populated campus, employers may receive hundreds of applications.

However, work-study funds are an essential part of my financial aid package. Not having a work-study job feels like these funds are the carrot at end of an obnoxiously long stick.

However, I know I’m fortunate to have work-study funds at all.

In 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act, which automatically cut a projected $1.2 trillion from federal programs earlier this year.

These sequestration cuts hit the Federal Work-Study Program, slicing $51 million from the student assistance program.

The blow eliminated work-study funds for an estimated 33,000 students nationwide this year, including about 500 from Minnesota.

Those remaining in the program face fewer jobs and small paychecks. Even job security may be on the line for students across the country with work-study
positions.

If Congress fails to pass a budget deal soon, the so-called “second sequester” will bring additional cuts across the board in January.

If that happens, the Federal Work-Study Program may take another hard hit. Students may find themselves out of work-study jobs they’ve held onto throughout college.

The sequester also cut $38 million from other financial assistance programs for students. This baffles me when compared with the amount of money slashed from the Federal Work-Study Program.

I fear a second round of sequestration cuts could affect work-study more than other forms of financial aid, though I can’t understand why lawmakers would consider this the best course of action.

After all, there is no shortage of employable students. The 18- to 29-year-old demographic has an unemployment rate of 11.6 percent, and further limiting the amount of available work-study jobs will likely make matters worse.

Some portray college students as freeloaders who would rather receive handouts than work for their money and education, but what combats this negative — not to mention inaccurate — stereotype better than work-study?

Work-study jobs allow students to pay their dues, as well as to cultivate a variety of relevant career skills and professional contacts.

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found a correlation between part-time work and a higher GPA. Bureau of Labor Statistics researchers found freshmen at four-year universities who worked one to 20 hours per week had higher GPAs than their unemployed peers.

I hope Congress and the U.S. Department of Education account for these benefits before putting work-study funds in front of the firing squad once again.