Work study applicants increase

Alissa Ricci

This fall, the Office of Financial Aid reported a 65 percent increase in the number of federal work-study students compared to last year.

The Class of 2012 included 444 freshmen eligible to participate in the federal work-study program, while the Class of 2013 saw this number rise to 680 students.

Bonnie Behm, director of Financial Assistance, explains that students’ eligibility for federal work study programs is determined by financial need. Students then decide if and when to begin work at an on-campus job.

“If a federal work-study student is hired, the federal government pays 75 percent of their wages. The remaining 25 percent is paid by the University. So it is advantageous for both financially needy students and the University to provide federal work-study jobs,” Behm said.

The federal government essentially provides a financial incentive to hire FWS students, providing the University with extra leverage to hire more students at lower wages. Contrary to popular belief, FWS programs are not intended to reduce the cost of tuition. Wages earned from these jobs are for pocket expenses, such as toiletries, school supplies and leisure activities.

“Students may certainly save the money to pay for books or tuition for the following semester, but it is up to the student,” said Behm.

For the first two weeks of school, employers on campus are required to hire work study students. After that, if jobs remain open, other students may apply and work on campus as well. However, out of 1,200 students employed on campus last year, 1,021 of them were FWS.

“The reality is work-study students do much behind the scenes,” said Marykay Klara, associate director of Financial Assistance. “Offices couldn’t function without them.”

Contrary to popular belief, jobs designated as work-study are not lax positions that allow students to study and do homework on the clock.

Junior Susanna Seibert works at Falvey Memorial Library and the Writing Center. “Having a job requires me to plan my homework a lot more efficiently,” she said.

As of Sept. 14, 730 students have started FWS jobs. The Office of Financial Aid reports the two most popular places to work on campus are Falvey Memorial Library and in the Athletics Department.

However, an emerging trend shows that more students than ever are taking jobs with Dining Services, which is usually understaffed. The Student Job Directory still lists a few positions available, but they require specialized skills and/or specific shift availability.

Sophomore Blaise Sceski works at Holy Grounds as a barista and at Donahue Hall as a dining hall cashier. “I like that Dining Services recognizes that I am primarily a student. If I need to take a day off because of a test, I can,” he said.

An increasing number of students outside the federal work study program are also in search of employment due to a weak economy. This means increased competition for jobs on- and off-campus.

Some on-campus positions that are not FWS include resident assistants, CPR specialists, tutors and teaching assistants. However, because these jobs require specialized skills, they attract a small number of qualified applicants.

Behm and Klara point out that many junior and senior students who declined federal work study as freshmen are now taking advantage of the opportunity.

“If students choose not to participate in federal work study programs, then we assume they are getting money somewhere else. This could be from parents or an off-campus job,” said Klara.

Additionally, Behm and Klara suggested that the lack of consistent employment off-campus and a decline in the number of paid internships may contribute to increased demand for employment. Klara explains that many students who work at restaurants and stores in the area work during the school year, go home for the summer and return to find their jobs filled.

The Office of Financial Aid continues to work with students who are both FWS and non-FWS to address the issue of student employment in the current economy.

Klara said, “I’m surprised to see so many students earn the $2,500 per academic year they were awarded as federal work study participants. Villanova is comparable to other schools in terms of being accommodating and flexible towards federal work study students.”