Work study awards mostly safe after sequester hits GW

by Jeremy Diamond

The University lost about $80,000 in federal work study money this year because of huge federal spending cuts, but averted the nearly 10 percent cut predicted by financial aid experts earlier this year.

That means this year's 3.6 percent cut impacts few GW students, GW's chief financial aid officer said. To make up for the cut, Associate Vice President for Financial Assistance Dan Small said students likely will not receive extra cash to keep working after their award has dried up.

Students will continue to receive an average of $2,200 each in the program, which allows them to work for University offices or nonprofits around the city and receive pay subsidized by the federal government. In the past, the University has been able to offer additional money to students who deplete their award before the end of the year but want to keep working.

Last year, 2,504 students accepted federal work study aid at GW. So far, about 2,100 students have accepted award offers.

In March, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators had predicted a 9 percent cut after analyzing potential impacts of the steep, across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester. Instead, the work study program saw a 5 percent drop for the 2013 fiscal year, when the deep cuts went into effect last March after Congress failed to avert sequestration.

It was then up to the Department of Education to determine how to share the pain among colleges based on recent aid trends, said Megan McClean, the financial aid association's director of policy and federal relations. But under sequestration, the future of the program is up to Congress, and McClean said the program is unlikely to get a reprieve from the legislature in coming years.

"Under the amount that needs to be cut from sequestration, or the amount of money that we need to save, it's hard to imagine a scenario under which we wouldn't have to take money from every program," McClean said.

Two years ago, the University offset a $400,000 federal hit to work study money by chipping in more to pay students, even at off-campus jobs. Since then, the University has paid 30 percent of students' salaries, up from 25 percent before 2011.

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