Sophie Oziek became interested in the issue of student unemployment at Webster University when she was worried about losing her job.
Oziek worked at the University Center, but after taking a second on-campus position, she was making too much money to qualify for work study. The UC considered her a valuable employee, and found a way to keep her on staff, but Oziek wondered if there was a larger issue.
“The need for budgeted student positions is increasing every year,” Oziek said. “Our budget money is not increasing at all.”
Oziek, a senior public relations major, delivered a presentation about the issue to Webster’s administration in November of 2015 at the Delegates’ Agenda. The issue of on-campus employment has been on the agenda for six of the last nine years.
Other students said they, too, had difficulties with on-campus employment.
Christina Raymo, a photography and marketing student in her first year at Webster qualified for work study. She applied for many jobs in the fall and spring semester and sought help from Career Services, but ultimately couldn’t find a position.
“I just gave up with work study,” Raymo said.
According to Student Employment Coordinator Danielle Ehrhard, 742 Webster students have worked on campus during the 2015-2016 school year. Of those, 578 have earned money towards a federal work study award.
The current annual budget for budget student employment is just over $1.23 million.
Brenda Tinnemeyer, a freshman international relations major, is one student who has dealt with the difficulty of only qualifying for budget jobs.
“I understand why work study is so obviously prioritized, but it can be a little annoying sometimes,” Tinnemeyer said.
As a dual citizen of the United States and Indonesia, Tinnemeyer is qualified to work off campus, but says she knows many of her fellow international classmates who are not. Non-citizens do not have access to work study funds either.
“They should open up more jobs for international students,” said Tinnemeyer, who was frustrated with the number of Gorlok Jobs listings which were work study only.
In her research, Oziek found that many students were losing their work study allotment after a year or two at Webster. Others used up their work study money partway through a semester and were unable to continue working unless budget funding was available. Often, she said, there was not.
“The terminology of it is really, really funky,” Oziek said.
When Oziek asked administrators about budget student employment, they often assumed she meant the student employment budget, and told her that it was increasing.
While that meant it was possible to hire more total work study students, it did not mean that existing positions could allow their employees to work more hours, or that work study students could accept more than one job.
“That’s not going to help students on an individual basis,” Oziek said.
After her presentation, Oziek said she felt the issues raised by Delegates’ Agenda received little response from the administration; the short response did not address most of her suggestions.
One response to the issue was the creation of a new Student Employment Coordinating Committee, which will make recommendations on all areas relating to student jobs. The committee includes the Dean of Students Ted Hoef, as well as representatives from the finance, academic affairs and financial aid offices.
Danielle Ehrhard, the student employment coordinator at Webster’s Career Planning and Development Center, is another member of the group, which she said will focus on the true needs of student employees.
In her position, Ehrhard regularly meets with students who are having difficulty finding employment.
“What I usually suggest is to start networking within their school or college or even, if they’re undecided, their classes,” Ehrhard said.
She said the most common mistakes students make when applying for jobs are creating poor resumes, not applying correctly and putting all their eggs in one basket and becoming discouraged after not receiving their first-choice job.
“I also tell all the students that I meet with to follow up directly with the supervisor within a day or two of applying,” Ehrhard said.
She also said there are still several budget and work study jobs currently open on Gorlok Jobs.
Oziek said she sees the creation of the Student Employment Coordinating Committee as a positive step for the issues Delegates’ Agenda raised.
“It’s something that I hope they could eventually get students to sit in on,” Oziek said.
Meanwhile, Raymo has also looked for other jobs on and off campus, but has been unsuccessful so far. She suggested Webster’s work study program could be more helpful if students were matched with a job offer when qualifying, rather than having to seek them out.