Since the recession took hold of the economy in late 2008, area colleges have been flooded with financial aid applications and calls about student loans. The federal work-study program is one option for students looking to cut their college costs.
Jaclyn Newhart is a biology student at North Central College who works a work-study job at the Res-Rec Center as a part of her financial aid package. Her duties include answering phones, washing windows and directing visitors. While she admits at times during the summer the job can be slow and seem tedious, she still says joining the program was a no-brainer.
“It’s $4,000 in a matter of four years,” said Newhart. “So it’s a great idea that people get involved.
The work-study program provides students like Newhart jobs on campus for up to 20 hours per week with the wages being subsidized by the federal government. For Jeff Denard, director of North Central College’s career development center, the program provides prospects for students willing to work in addition to their studies.
“It’s more of an opportunity than anything else,” said Denard. “Because they can work and that money will be actually given to them. It doesn’t go back to the college. Checks are cut to the students and they earn it.”
North Central College’s federal allocation for work-study students has gone up nearly $80,000 over the past two years due to federal stimulus money and a general funding increase. However, other area colleges aren’t as lucky.
Just down Chicago Avenue, Benedictine University has seen their work-study allocation cut 20% due to a lack of stimulus funds for this coming school year.
In Glen Ellyn, College of DuPage employs about 100 work-study students each year and is in the same situation as Benedictine, but officials admit the stimulus money was a nice tool to have even if for only 2009-10.
“You ask for a dollar amount you feel you can spend,” said Mark Holysz, COD’s Director of Financial Aid. This is the first year in 35 years of working in financial aid I got what I asked for because of the stimulus money.”
Some colleges in other regions have reported work-study funding cuts in favor of Pell Grant funding, which means fewer student employees on college campuses like Jaclyn Newhart. With the shuffling in other regions, she’s just happy to keep her work-study job at the Res-Rec.
“If I didn’t have it, that’s a thousand dollars out of my pocket rather than the school helping me out,” said Newhart.
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