In order for a student to work at Webster University’s campus, they must either qualify for federal work study or find a departmental budget position. However, many students in budget positions are finding themselves facing potential cuts.
This year students brought up the issue for the fifth time in almost a decade at Delegates’ Agenda. Miscommunication between students and the university finance department is causing confusion over where budget money is coming from and going to, and Director of Student Engagement Jennifer Stewart said it stems from three small words.
“What [Delegates’ Agenda presenters] found out when they went and spoke with the people in finance is that there seems to be these wires crossing, where the students are saying ‘budget student employment’ and the finance people are saying ‘student employment budget.’ They think they’re talking about the same thing, but they’re not,” Stewart said.
Stewart said the student employment budget is increasing because of federal money for work study, and budget student employment is either staying flat or decreasing.
“They’re both using the same three words, but they mean something significantly different to both groups of people,” Stewart said.
Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin said in a statement the university-wide budget for student employment is slightly higher than it was last year. Each department determines the need for student workers and schedules them within their budget.
“I can tell you that in Global Marketing and Communications, we were able to hire more student employees this year than last year because of the budget increase,” Giblin said.
While Giblin said the student budget employment has increased, Webster student employee Olivia Perez said she wonders why her department is experiencing budget position cuts.
Perez currently holds a budget position as a Gorlok Guide. At the beginning of the year, she faced potentially losing that job.
“Even though I’ve worked there for a couple years, they had to make some cuts, and cuts happen,” Perez said. “They were thinking it wouldn’t really affect us, but I guess they did the math over again and found out that they would actually not be able to keep the people who were signed on as budget.”
Perez said the Office of Admissions changed into a work study-only model. She said the budget positions
were originally going to be exempt from the change, and only new hires would be work study.
Perez said the office wanted to change the way it ran the department and how it paid its employees. Perez was told at the time her position, as well as others, did not fit into this new model. The office declined to comment.
Being awarded work study is based on a student’s financial need. Stewart said when a student does not qualify, their next option is budget. Perez said she was worried because she could not have work study and still needed a job.
At this point in the semester, Perez said she learned she would be able to keep her job. Working “very part-time,” her boss counts her weekly hours carefully and told Perez she would be able to work a few hours a week next semester as well.
In spring 2013, The Journal reported the university faced a $12.2 million shortfall. While Webster is still recovering from that, it is not the only one facing a financial hit. A representative from the Planning and Budget Division at Saint Louis University (SLU) said SLU is dealing with its own budget issues. The representative said, like Webster, each department decides how to spend their money, but the issue is not necessarily focused on student labor.
The representative said SLU has a large student-labor base, but this is the first year the school has suffered a budget issue.
Giblin said in another statement that Webster allocated over $2.1 million for student jobs, giving 50 percent of that to work study and the other half to budget positions. Stewart said Delegates’ Agenda presenters Sophie Ozier and Nick Rau found the allocations were not exactly 50/50, but the ratio was close to that figure. She also said this is the fifth time budget position issues have come up in Delegates’ Agenda. First arising in 2006, it has been discussed sporadically for almost 10 years.
“Student jobs are funded either through the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Work Study Program or the University’s base budget,” the statement said. “Work study funding is only available to students who are eligible, which is determined through the financial aid awarding process.”
Giblin said the issue of student employment was raised in the Delegates’ Agenda and will be addressed Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. in Sunnen Lounge. The 2016-17 Fiscal Year’s budget will not be determined until next year.