Work-study often goes unused

Sarah Klaphake

Each year, more than half of students who receive work-study funds do not accept or use them, a University official said.

Many times, students who decline work-study awards already have off-campus or non-work-study jobs, and some choose not to work at all, said Deb Pusari, associate director of Undergraduate and Graduate Services.

The financial aid office typically offers almost double the amount of work-study awards it can fund because, on average, half of the students do not accept their awards, Pusari said.

Since this fall, an estimated 3,000 students declined their work-study awards.

Additionally, many students who accept their awards will not earn the maximum amount awarded to them because they do not get jobs, do not show up to work or do not work enough hours, Pusari said.

Work-study is need-based financial aid funded by the federal and state governments. To apply for a work-study award, students must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid and request the award. To be eligible, students must be enrolled for at least six credits each semester they wish to receive aid.

Because most grants are given to students with a family income lower than $40,000, Pusari said, work-study awards are available to students in higher income brackets.

As a result, students whose family incomes exceed $40,000 receive more work-study funds than those with family incomes less than $40,000, Pusari said.

Students can use their work- study funds in any on-campus student position or off-campus student position offered through America Reads or a community service program, according to the Office of Student Finance Work Study Web site.

Andy Reichert, who is in charge of hiring decisions at the Upward Bound Individual Study Program – a tutoring program for area high school students – said hiring work-study students cuts costs, because his program pays 30 percent of their wages and the students’ work-study funds pay the rest.

Chris Carlson, an architecture junior, received work-study funds for the first time this fall.

“I really enjoy working as a work-study student,” said Carlson, a Walter Library employee.

He said he took a work-study job instead of an off-campus job because it was easier to fit in his schedule and he thought it would be a way to get to know the campus better.

“Work-study jobs are great for meeting new people, learning aspects of a work-related environment and providing funds for tuition costs,” Carlson said.

Norma Peterson, director of the University’s Human Resources Job Center, said another benefit of a work-study job is that the money students earn is excluded when their financial aid is calculated the next year.

This makes their income appear lower on their FAFSAs, which gives them a better chance of continuing to get financial aid, Peterson said. This would not be possible with a non-work-study job.

The estimated 2,500 students who participate in the work-study program at the University annually are usually offered $3,000 in work-study funds, Pusari said.

– Amy Horst contributed to this report.