Working hard for the money

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Every school year, approximately 600 students apply for work study on campus, and it is up to the UW-Whitewater Financial Aid office to find jobs for as many of those students as possible.

A form of financial aid, work study allows students to work on campus to earn money at an hourly rate to help pay expenses.

Murray said the university begins awarding work study on a first-come-first-serve basis on April 1. By April 2, they are overcommitted.

According to Murray, the process of applying and being accepted for work study has five steps:

First, a student must say they are interested in work study on their Free Application for Student Aid. Then, UW-Whitewater must determine if they have an unmet financial need after they are offered a subsidized loan.

The next three steps are organized in a government formula to determine if a student has this unmet need:

The university determines how much they think it will cost a student to attend school for nine months. FASFA comes up with an expected family contribution to an individual’s education. The expected family income subtracted from the cost of attending UW-Whitewater results in a student’s unmet need.

After a student is offered a direct subsidized loan, the remaining need is what is looked at for work study.

Students must have a minimum unmet need of $700 to be considered for work study at UW-Whitewater.

The most that a student will be offered through work study is $1,500, or $1,200 as a freshman.

Students with work study are paid by the government, not through the employer.

After a student is offered work study, the final step is to find a job that accepts work study students. It is up to the student to find a job and work the appropriate amount of hours to earn all of their work study.

Murray

Connie Murray, associate director of financial aid, helps students with work study who cannot find a job on campus.

“The design of the work study program is to give students experience related to their major,” Murray said.

According to Murray, many students find jobs through friends and family who also have jobs on campus.

Hawk Jobs is another available resource for work study students to find jobs. Hawk Jobs lists openings on campus from many different departments.

Murray said some departments have websites of their own with job openings. Some positions require students to apply in person.

Many departments on campus prefer to hire work study students first, because they might have limited or no funds for payroll.

Some jobs, however, have no choice but to hire any students, whether they have work study or not, because they need students with specialized skills.

Murray uses help desk positions on campus as an example. If they can’t find work study students with computer skills, the department would have no choice but to hire a student with the required skills and use payroll money to pay employees.

“There is a huge misunderstanding that all of the jobs on campus are work study,” Murray said. “Because departments want to hire students that they don’t have to pay first, they are first going to hire work study students.”

However students find jobs, once hired they are required by federal law to be treated as regular employees. This means employers must adhere to minimum wage, hours worked and all other working standards.

After they find a job, work study students need to work out a schedule with their employers.

The government assigns an individual student a specified amount of work study for the academic year. If a student works too many hours, they could run out of work study before the year is over. If this happens, it would be up to the department to switch the student over to their own payroll.

“There are some departments that do not hire work study students at all,” Murray said. “They might have their own grant dollars, so they don’t need to hire work study students. It all depends on their budget.”

Junior Danielle Grego is not eligible for work study. She said the system is unfair because it takes away opportunities for people who do not qualify.

“Just because your parents might make good enough money doesn’t mean it should limit the student who doesn’t want thousands of dollars in loans after graduation,” Grego said.

Sophomore Brendon Mendoza has two jobs through work study. He works at the front desk of Wells Hall and is a score keeper for Recreational Sports.

“It’s very nice because I can do my homework and get paid at the same time, while also getting experience,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza works 16 to 18 hours a week between both of his jobs.

“Last year it was hard to get a job,” Mendoza said. “I applied for three jobs and I didn’t get any of them without work study.”