Federal work-study positions ‘limited’ this semester, students say

Media Credit: File Photo by Alexander Welling | Senior Staff Photographer

As departments downsize across the University, federal work-study students are finding it increasingly difficult to find secure jobs.

Updated: Sept. 21, 2020 at 12:56 a.m.

Last spring, junior Jalen Jeudy clocked out of a shift at the GW Key Depot without knowing she would soon be furloughed after nearly two years in the facilities department.

After receiving word of her furlough in April, Jeudy said she applied for over 30 remote federal work-study positions over the summer and heard back from one – but the job fell through. September marks the fifth month without FWS income that would help cover tuition and groceries, she said. 

Jeudy is one of more than 10 students who said they’ve lost their FWS position and are struggling to find a new one amid the pandemic. Officials said they are working to create new FWS jobs with D.C.-area organizations, but students said they haven’t heard back from listed positions on the Student Employment Talent Management System or were told the positions were already filled.

“I’ve been getting a lot of emails like ‘this application is now closed,’ or ‘please be patient in the hiring process due to the pandemic and remote work,’” Jeudy said. “I get that, but at the same time, these are funds that I clearly need and the government thinks I need.”

Bridget Schwartz, the director of student employment, said officials started recruiting additional nonprofit organizations in the D.C. area for their Off-Campus FWS Program in the spring to create more jobs. She said student employment officials launched a social media campaign this summer to encourage academic departments to hire FWS students.

When the University transitioned to online learning for the remainder of the spring, officials permitted FWS positions to pay students until the end of the semester even if they did not continue their work in a virtual setting.

Schwartz said the number of FWS positions available are “slightly” down this year compared to the past because departments that hire “large” numbers of students for positions that can only be performed on campus have been removed. She said she will continue to work with GW departments and off-campus sites to provide as many opportunities as possible for students.

She said at the start of classes, there were about 350 job openings available on the Student Employment Talent Management System Applicant Portal, and positions will still be posted for the fall semester as departments solidify their budgets. She said most postings also have “multiple” openings for students.

“There are a variety of positions available to students this fall,” Schwartz said in an email. “In particular, we have seen a significant number of virtual research, communications, administrative and project assistant positions posted so far this semester.”

Kaitlynn Slattery, a junior majoring in biology, said she learned Tuesday that Ross Hall staff would terminate all undergraduate laboratory assistant positions to limit the building’s capacity during the pandemic. Slattery said she has begun looking for jobs near her apartment in D.C. because there are fewer FWS positions available than past months. 

“I don’t get money sent to me from my parents, so I’m pretty much fully doing it on my own now,” Slattery said. “It’s just stressful now because I do have money from the summer, but I have to buy furniture so I could go through that money pretty quickly. So it’s definitely like the clock is ticking, and I want to be in a good position in two months.”

She added that the University should have told students earlier this year that they might not have access to their FWS positions this fall so students knew to apply to other jobs.

“I definitely think FWS should have been reaching out to students a lot sooner to warn them federal jobs will probably be limited or canceled because of the pandemic so that students could have started searching sooner,” Slattery said. “It’s probably one of the biggest things on my mind, especially as someone who tends to be an anxious person.”

Junior Anjantee Manandic, an international affairs major, said some GW departments are offering remote FWS positions but have reduced the number of students they are hiring. After working as a front desk assistant for the Elliott School of International Affairs’ undergraduate advising office last academic year, she said she was told after an interview on Aug. 24 she would not be rehired as the advising office reduced the number of students on its staff from 10 to four this fall.

She said since late August, she has applied to seven FWS positions but has been denied from them all because the applications closed or offices are only hiring a limited number of students. She said she has had to rely on D.C. unemployment payments to afford her apartment in the District while balancing an unpaid internship, adding that she wishes officials would be proactive in connecting students to open positions this semester. 

“I wish that the work-study program and employment services started earlier, even as early as May when school ended,” Manandic said. “I know there was a whole administrative decision about reopening, but we could’ve had a ‘plan A’ and ‘plan B’ in the case we were fully online again.”

This post has been updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly spelled Jalen Jeudy’s name. It is now correct. We regret this error.

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