Less Federal Work-Study money

By Lindsay Cameron

There are two reasons why student employers at Ashland University may feel financial strain in their budgets this semester.

Last year, Ashland University received a federal stimulus package for Work-Study, which boosted the allocation to $348,288 from $267,513 in the 2008-2009 year, but this stimulus was granted for only one year.

Student employment allocations are now reverting back to similar allocations from two years ago in 2008-2009, as are department budgets, according to Michael Hupfer, the Associate Dean of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences.

The Director of Financial Aid, Stephen Howell, said more institutions qualify for Federal Work-Study dollars, which divides the money further.

The stimulus was a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help stimulate institutions during the financial hardships, Howell said.

A steady decrease in funds from the government, however, also plays a factor in student employment budgeting adjustments.

Howell said Ashland University has been receiving less Federal Work-Study money each year for the last few years.

“More universities are applying to the government for the same amount of funds, so the ones that are in there will get a smaller allocation of funds,” Howell said.

Howell said if students aren’t able to earn dollars on campus, it could have a negative impact on retention, because some students need the money for tuition, books and living expenses.

AU employed 956 students in 2008-2009, 951 students in 2009-2010 and 880 students so far this year, according to Howell.

Hupfer said CAS employs 120 students on campus and that overall expenses are being used at their expected rate so far this year.

“Has there ever been a case where you’ve had enough money to do what you want to do?” Hupfer said.

Another difficulty with student employment is the cost of living. Hupfer said 1,000 hours of student employment costs more each year because the minimum wage increases.

“I don’t look at it [lessened Federal Work Study allocation] that we are facing an unusual or unprecedented circumstance,” Hupfer said.

The Rec Center employs the most students-132-on campus, according to Patrick Edwards, Assistant Director of Facilities and Student Development Recreational Services.

Edwards said the Rec Center had to reduce operating hours for the climbing wall last semester due to the reduced Federal Work-Study allocation.

“We made that decision because we looked at participation. Every hour we do participation studies and we makethe adjustment based on those scores,” Edwards said.

Even though their changes reduced at least ten hours each week for employment, Edwards said the reduction has only affected one or two people-the same number of students is employed and no students have lost their jobs.

If Federal Work-Study allocations continue to decline for the Rec Center, Edwards said he will not sacrifice customer service, equipment quality and building cleanliness to save money. Edwards also must follow the state guidelines for the necessary amount of employees per square foot of the Rec Center.

“Hypothetically, we could look at restructuring the hours again, taking into account participation in each area. It’s interesting. When we have our building open at such times, we must have a standard number of employees here,” Edwards said.

Information Technology Vice President, Curtis White, said his department’s federal work-study allocation exhausted in December and all of his student employees have switched to receive regular work study, paid by AU dollars instead of federal dollars.

White said IT will limit the number of students paid fulltime in the summer to compensate the lack of Federal Work-Study. Usually, IT employs 10 or 12 students full-time during the summer. If allocations continue to decrease, White said a further change may be to keep one student working on Saturdays, instead of two.

White said he knew there would be less Federal Work-Study this year, but he was not told how much of a difference it would be.

Since most of the networking is managed by the professional staff, tight budgets from less Federal Work-Study will not limit further Internet upgrades.

“We would have to be in dire straits for us to look at cutting back on phone service and Internet bandwidth. Those would be some of the last things we would cut,” White said.