Work-study program offers opportunities to U students

Tatum Fjerstad

Work-study, a government-funded program that helps students pay for college, gives eligible students the option to make money both on and off campus.

Jennifer Kohler, literacy coordinator of America Reads, is one of several off-campus employers who look to work-study money to help keep their businesses afloat.

America Reads is a literacy-based tutoring program that places college work-study tutors in schools and community programs to help struggling students.

“We only hire work-study students, so work-study money is critical to our program and our ability to provide quality tutors,” she said.

Work-study funds come from both federal and state levels.

To be eligible for work-study funds, a student must be registered for six or more credits and express financial need in his or her Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Phil Lewenstein, director of communications and legislative services at the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office’s said work-study funds can’t be awarded like traditional grants, because of Minnesota’s policy of “shared responsibility” – meaning that the burden of paying for college should be shared between the student, families and taxpayers.

“One of the main ways that students fulfill their responsibility is through working and borrowing – hopefully at reasonable levels,” he said.

But work-study funds aren’t always available to give, Lewenstein said. During the 2002-2003 school year, the state didn’t contribute any money to the program, because the entire $12.4 million was transferred to meet a shortfall in the state grant program, he said.

Kohler said she noticed the change in available funds for America Reads.

“When work-study funds have been low, we have had more candidates with smaller work-study awards,” she said. “In addition, quite a few tutors who have worked with us

before no longer have work-study and, therefore, cannot continue working for the program.”

The state allocated the same amount of money for work-study funds for Minnesota schools this year as last.