By Ivanhoe/The AS Review

Some student jobs funded through the federal work study program will go unfilled this year because there is not enough money to cover all of them.  This affects Associated Students (AS) offices and departmental offices around the university.

Work study is a form of financial aid that allows students to earn part of their award through government-financed employment. It benefits students by opening up job opportunities and it benefits the university by paying for positions that they could not otherwise support.

“There might be a perception that jobs have been cut,” Student Employment Center Manager Caryn Regimbal said. “That’s not the case. Hiring into them has just been suspended.”

According to the Student Employment Center, about 600 students receive work study awards each year.

Funding for work study positions comes from the federal government through the Department of Education and from the state government through the Higher Education Coordinating Board (HEC Board).

Work study awards may be used for any available work study position, regardless of who funds it. However, positions funded with federal money are subject to fewer restrictions than those funded by the state, so they are usually filled first, Regimbal said.

For state-funded work study jobs, the HEC Board mandates that at least half of a student’s job duties must be in advising, tutoring or research assistance.

In an effort to allocate work study positions more efficiently, the financial aid department began reviewing the job descriptions of work study positions this year, Regimbal said. They found that some federally funded positions qualified for state funding, so their funding sources were changed to free up the more flexible federal money, she said.

However, they also found that some state-funded positions did not meet the job-description requirement, she said.
“Some departments have switched job responsibilities to meet that state [requirement],” she said, while others were able to use federal funding that had been freed up elsewhere.

Still, some positions were switched to federal funding that is not available.

This year Western received about $487,000 from the federal government and about $930,000 from the state government for work study awards.

The federal allocation has not changed since the 2004-05 academic year, after about a $54,000 total decrease over the preceding three years. State funds increased an average of roughly $27,500 each year between the 2004-05 academic year and last year. This year, however, the state did not increase Western’s allocation.

Because the minimum wage increased last January, that same allocation covers fewer positions than last year. Since the minimum wage is tied to inflation, the minimum wage will not increase this year because the state has not experienced inflation, according to the Department of Labor and Industries.

According to Regimbal, the number of funded work study positions has declined in recent years. Six years ago, federal funds paid for 80 more positions than this year, while 43 fewer state-funded work study jobs are covered under this year’s allocation than in 2002, she said.

Students who have been awarded work study but have not found a job yet do not need to worry about a lack of available jobs.

“Any student who has work study can find work study employment,” Regimbal said.

The Student Employment Center’s Web site lists over 50 work study jobs that are currently hiring, most of them with off-campus employers.