UA lobbies for non-work-study jobs
It will still safeguard rights of students who depend on work-study income
October 1, 2013, 8:04 pm · Updated October 1, 2013, 11:19 pm·
Job creation has been on the national agenda since the recession and now it’s come onto the Undergraduate Assembly’s agenda as well.
UA representative and Wharton and College sophomore Sebastian Negron-Reichard wants to see more on-campus jobs distributed based on merit alone, rather than on financial need. This semester, he and several other UA representatives will be working to bring about more jobs for non-work study students.
About 45 percent of the undergraduate student population receives financial aid of some form, while about 28 percent of students overall receive federal work-study grants, but not all of them seek employment. Around 40 percent of students who receive work-study awards choose not to work, according to Manager of Student Financial Services Student Employment John Rudolph.
According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics that was released in 2009, the number of full-time college students who are employed in some capacity is on the rise — the figure was nearly 50 percent in 2005. Negron-Reichard is among the increasing number of students who want part-time employment.
He first took interest in expanding the number of jobs available to students who are not eligible for a work-study grant when he himself sought a non-work-study job on campus. Of the nearly 600 jobs listed on the student employment website, Negron-Reichard found that he was only eligible for around 35.
One reason that a majority of the jobs on campus are restricted to those with work-study eligibility is that the federal government foots the bill for part of their wages.
The Federal Student Aid Handbook, which governs work-study policy, states that federal funds can make up as much as 75 percent of a work-study student’s pay. Under special circumstances, such as if the job involves tutoring children in reading or math, the Federal Work Study program can pay all of a student’s wages.
On-campus employers at Penn pay only 50 percent of their student workers’ wages out of pocket. According to Rudolph, departmental budgets often restrict on-campus employers from taking on a non-work-study student for whom they would have to pay 100 percent of wages out of their own budgets.
Negron-Reichard sees a problem with this dynamic. “The most attractive jobs are work-study only,” he said.
UA representative and Wharton junior Christian Cortes, who is working with Negron-Reichard on the initiative, said in an email that the UA will safeguard the rights of students who depend on work-study income.
The goal of the project is “expanding the pool of desirable on-campus student positions rather than redistributing jobs from work-study students to non-work-study students,” he said.
College senior Gabriela Kirk said that working on campus can be beneficial. She currently works as an assistant at the Center for Health Equity Research. “I have definitely gained lots of skills I wouldn’t have otherwise and especially as I start applying for full-time stuff I am happy to have a full resume and know what types of work I like doing,” Kirk said.
Negron-Reichard felt that those takeaways from the work-study jobs are not “something you’d get at Urban Outfitters.”
College junior Nicole Hammons disagrees.
After working at Anthropologie on 18th Street over the summer, she chose not to give up the position once classes started because she found that she liked the other employees and being able to go downtown more frequently.
Hammons also holds a work-study position on campus in which she acts as a consultant to non-native English speakers who are applying to graduate schools. Both of her positions, she explained, are educational in their own ways.
“I’m not looking for a career in consultation and definitely not in retail, but that’s not to say that these jobs don’t give me very valuable experience,” she said in an email.
Kirk explained, however, that work study for her is more than a way to learn.
“I pay for all my food, utilities and about 25 percent of my housing costs plus whatever spending money I use,” she said.
A previous version of this article stated that 28 percent of those who received financial aid receive a work study grant as well. It is 28 percent of the entire undergraduate student population, not of those who receive financial aid.