Out of more than 1,000 students awarded federal work-study funds, around 500 of them who are deemed eligible did not use their award this semester. According to the university, some student employees in the program do not even work enough hours to earn their total award. This results in money being left unspent.
Dean of Students Ted Hoef emphasized that work study is an award, along with scholarships, grants and loans.
“Some students glance at their financial aid award, which may include work study, and if it all adds up to the same amount as what the university charges, they might think that they’re ‘good.’ The key is getting students to apply for a job to actually earn the award and that it is not a grant,” Hoef said.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, the Department of Education awarded Webster $995,000 and the university added a 25 percent match. Webster spokesperson Patrick Giblin said by the end of the academic year, Webster had to return about $34,000 back to the U.S. Department of Education because it was not used.
Because federal work money went unspent, Giblin said the Department of Education reduced the university’s allocation for the 2016-2017 year by over $135,000, which includes Webster’s match.
In order to better utilize the available work-study funds and address student employment concerns at-large, the Student Employment Coordinating Committee was formed.
Members include Hoef, Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Admission & Financial Aid James Myers, Director of Academic Resources and Planning Rita Smith, Curt Vehlewald and Barrett Studdard from Accounting Services, Career Planning and Development Center Director Tamara Gegg-LaPlume and student employment coordinator Danielle Ehrhard.
Gegg-LaPlume and Ehrhard oversee all student employment at the Webster Groves home campus.
A new initiative directly resulting from the committee’s work is today’s Federal Work Study Job Fair held at the East Academic Building.
According to Ehrhard, the job fair’s purpose is twofold: to put students to work immediately in the Spring II term and put department supervisors in front of students long before the 2016-17 school year.
“There’s plenty of time left in the year for students to earn their federal work-study award, especially if they are staying for the summer or are local. They can earn up to June 30,” Ehrhard said.
Ehrhard said after students have begun their job search on the Gorlok Jobs website, they should schedule an appointment at the Career Planning and Development Center.
“If a student is unsure how to navigate Gorlok Jobs, they should definitely come in to see us because the site mimics how search database,” Ehrhard said.
Rozineti Niyoyakira is a sophomore studying international relations from Tanzania who earns her work study award as an assistant at the Writing Center. She works around 15 hours per week in order to fulfill her work-study obligation.
“My boss is really flexible as long as my hours work toward my tuition but I will need to work more as my tuition rises up,” Niyoyakira said.
Niyoyakira lives off campus in St. Louis city and is confident that student employment will be there as she approaches graduation.
Once a student uses up their work study allotment, Hoef said there are ways to keep working in the same position. He said some departments have institutional funds – similar to a payroll budget – called a “budget position” that will help students continue working at the same position.
Part of the committee’s advocacy stresses the need for supervisors to allow students to do just that: work a little more.
Student workers and job-seekers who missed the job fair are encouraged to visit the Career Planning and Development Center, located at 101A Garden Park Plaza, lower-level.