Due to cuts, 1,200 students lost work-study grants this year

Kari Petrie

University journalism sophomore Jessica Snively is trying to pay her $5,000 yearly tuition bill with a $100 biweekly pay check and several student loans.

She works seven hours per week at a Richfield sandwich shop, earning $9 an hour – which is far less than she originally hoped.

Snively originally planned on receiving a work-study grant – working for the University’s psychology department – which paid $9 an hour for up to 20 hours a week.

“I really wish I would have found something around (the University) that would be more convenient, and I could work more often,” Snively said.

Snively is one of the estimated 1,200 University students who lost their state-funded work-study grants for this year. In July 2002, state lawmakers cut the entire $12.4 million work-study program budget and a large chunk of the child care program in order to make up for a $16 million state grant program shortfall.

Mary Koskin, director of One Stop Student Services, said students are surprised by the state’s work-study cuts, but are willing to be put on a financial aid waiting list.

Deb Pusari, senior associate director for the University’s Office of Student Finance, said an increase in federal work-study funding – approximately $400,000 – will help 1,500 students this year.

Along with Snively and other students, employers who hire work-study students are also facing difficulties.

Karen Nelson, executive administration specialist at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said she is having trouble finding students to fill positions – leaving more work for her and other staff members.

“Two years ago, I’d post a work-study job, and I’d have 20 to 60 applicants,” she said. “But now I have four applicants, and only two of them have work-study.”

Rosalyn Crossen, associate administrator for University Day Community, which counsels socially troubled teens, said the center has had to cut back on student staff.

“It’s really been a hardship,” she said.

America Reads, a program where work-study students go to Minneapolis schools to read to children in kindergarten through third grade, has also felt the effects.

America Reads Assistant Literacy Coordinator Jennifer Koehler said the program lost several tutors after the work-study budget was slashed. Koehler said she has noticed fewer students applying.

“We didn’t get a huge onslaught like we usually do,” she said.

America Reads was able to maintain its 10-school program with first-year work-study recipients, Koehler said.

Colleen Harvey, a University sophomore, works for America Reads as a tutor. She receives a $3,000 federal work-study grant that pays $10 an hour.

“It helps a lot,” she said.

State legislators are aware of the difficulties students and employers face without state work-study.

Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said she plans to push for more work-study and child care funding for next fall, but the state’s upcoming budget deficit may make that difficult.

“With a $4.5 billion shortfall, who knows?” she said.

Kari Petrie welcomes comments at [email protected]