Federal work-study is a useful tool for students who qualify for financial aid to earn tax-free money that is sent directly to the student to pay for their expenses. At a school as expensive at Chapman, this is especially important for those who struggle to cover all the costs that come with college.
But not all students who qualify for federal work-study have been able to find jobs.
“I have a lot of financial aid from Chapman, and I was given work-study as part of that, and I waited too long to apply,” sophomore psychology major Katherine Kindy told The Panther. “I started applying two weeks after school started and I tried to get jobs in different hall offices, and I never heard anything back.”
Last year, 2,139 students were awarded work-study packages of up to $3,000, but only 965 students took the opportunity, said David Carnevale, director of financial aid. More than half of the students on campus who qualify for work study aren’t fulfilling those jobs. So why is it difficult for some students to find work-study jobs?
Chapman’s work-study program is modeled after real-world employment, as students search and apply for jobs online. This makes work-study jobs seem accessible, but some students, like Kindy, are not aware of how fast and competitive the process is at Chapman, which sets them up to fail.
While others who apply at the beginning of the school year have had more success in securing jobs, the average student is going to be overwhelmed by the first few weeks of the year. Adjusting to new classes and activities are just some of the challenges that many students face. It shouldn’t be necessary for a new student to be concerned about finding a work-study position the minute they step onto campus.
Giving students a chance to get settled is so important that just this past school year, sorority recruitment was moved to the spring semester. Dean of Students Jerry Price told The Panther in December 2015 that the change was to give freshmen an opportunity to explore other organizations. A similar concept is applied to the Student Involvement Fair, where students are introduced to clubs and other organizations on campus. The fair is mid-September, giving students time before committing to pursuing clubs and organizations.
Students need time to adjust before rushing a sorority, joining a club — and applying for a job. Just because a student waits two weeks before applying shouldn’t mean that they’re unable to secure a job.
As we wrote in “The hidden costs of college” editorial last October, there are many more expenses students must take into account than just tuition, such as textbooks, studying abroad, Greek life and other social events. Federal work-study helps students afford these costs. While the U.S. Department of Education clearly states that being awarded federal work-study does not guarantee students a job, it acknowledges that some schools match students with certain positions. This could be a productive step toward ensuring that more work-study students are able to secure jobs.
If Chapman is trying to establish itself as a university that welcomes students of all backgrounds, it needs to make on-campus jobs more accessible to students who qualify for federal work-study.