The Undergraduate Assembly has started to consider adding more non-work-study jobs to the University’s student job search database. The goal is to make sure students who want to work can — regardless of whether they qualify for work-study or not.
Since the idea was first broached, it has met some criticism. Some worry that it could hurt work-study students who depend on it as financial aid and force them to compete with financially privileged students for jobs.
We don’t think that all non-work-study students looking for jobs necessarily come from the “1 percent” — there is a large divide between work-study students and, as some have put it bluntly, “trust-fund babies.” In this gap are students who just want a little more money to live comfortably or who hope to take some pressure — even if just a little — off their parents who are paying for their college tuition.
However, the answer isn’t necessarily adding more non-work-study jobs. We can ensure that students who want to work can do so by fixing the existing work-study system, rather than adding to it.
First of all, there is a substantial number of work-study jobs that are still listed on the job search database every year. It’s possible that part of this is a flaw in the technical system: jobs are taken, but no one takes the listing off the site. If so, this is one of many things that should be remedied in the work-study process.
But taking the database at its word, there are jobs left to go around. And as long as there are unfilled jobs, there isn’t a need to create more. We can differ on many aspects of work-study, but if there are jobs that have not been filled and students who want to work, there is no reason they should be ineligible for those jobs.
In such a scenario, work-study students would get first priority for all work-study jobs. However, after some cutoff — perhaps near the end of September — the remaining positions would be opened up to anyone looking for a job.
At the same time, we should also address why so many jobs are left unfilled. Often, based on the wages students are paid, work-study students are unable to achieve the full grant listed with the job and ultimately decide to look elsewhere. Increasing wages, especially when and if that extra pay can come from already federally-granted funds rather than departments’ checkbooks, is something the UA should look into.
The main problem — which exists with any non-work-study student getting a job — is that departments often have trouble paying students without work-study grants. This is where the attention should be focused: helping departments fill their positions if work-study students don’t fill them.
It’s good that the UA is starting to approach this topic. Normally, non-work-study students don’t have a lot of job opportunities advertised to them other than research grants, and that’s something that should change. But as we look at ways to expand the system, we should also try to fix what’s broken while we’re at it.
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