Work study budget cuts threaten student jobs

Students with jobs through the Federal Work Study Program at GW may find themselves out of work this semester once their allotments run out.

In past years, the University gave additional funds to students who earned their entire Federal Work Study awards so they could continue working, but the University is not doing that this year, after it received less money for the program from the federal government, Associate Vice President for Student Financial Assistance Dan Small said.

GW received $2.5 million for the Federal Work Study Program this year, down from $3.8 million last year. The federally funded program allows students who received an award from GW’s financial aid office to earn money while working at pre-approved organizations, including GW departments, local nonprofits, government agencies and community service employers. For on-campus jobs, the federal government pays 75 percent of students’ salaries and the University pays the remaining 25 percent. Off-campus jobs receive between 50 and 70 percent of their salary funding from the government, and nonprofit tutoring agencies receive 100 percent of their funding from Federal Work Study, Small said.

“The past few years our allocation has allowed us to provide additional funding to some students, but as the federal allocation has decreased we no longer have the funds to go beyond the students’ original award amount,” Small said. Small said he doesn’t know how many students have earned their entire allotment or are close to doing so.

The average student award this year is about $2,200, down from last year’s $3,000 average, Small said. About 1,650 students participate in the Federal Work Study Program.

“Any student awarded Federal Work Study is able to work to the level of their award,” Small said in an e-mail. “The issue is when the individual has reached the level of his/her award, we are no longer in a position of providing an increase, either because they no longer have the ‘need’ or funding limits prevent us from increasing.”

Small said the average increase in funds in the past years was between $200 and $500, depending on student need.

Without the University being able to provide additional funds this year, if students run through their total award they may be able to negotiate with their employers to receive direct payment from them instead of through work study funds, Small said.

“Depending on the department there may be the possibility of moving the student to be paid from the department’s budget,” he said. “This is not true for all areas but worth investigating.”

Gelman Library spokeswoman Anne Ward said the decrease in federal funding could potentially affect library staffing, where Federal Work Study students are employed in several areas including at the circulation and entrance desks. Ward said it would depend on whether the individual departments have enough of their own funding to keep the students on.

“Some of our departments may have cash left and others budgeted conservatively and won’t have funds left,” Ward said.

Kelsey Van Hook, a senior, has held four different Federal Work Study jobs during her time at GW, both on-campus and off-campus, and has always been careful to plan her hours so she doesn’t run out of funds.

Communicating with her employers to keep track of her available funds is key, she said.

“I have a great relationship with the people I work with and I think that we would be able to figure something out if that were to happen, either me scaling back my hours or finding different ways to help out.”

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