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Work-Study: Extra Income and a Flexible Schedule

by Alex Vincent | University of Washington

F Posted in: College P Posted on: September 30, 2011
Screen shot 2011-09-29 at 10.49.00 PM

It’s a Thursday afternoon at Montana State University, and senior Jessica Ruzic is at the Bobcat Ticket Office selling tickets to upcoming athletic events.

Federal work-study gives Ruzic the opportunity to work on campus, which allows her to balance a full course load, a second job and her student teaching schedule without feeling overwhelmed.

“Most campus jobs require work-study, therefore the best part has to be the convenience of working on campus,” Ruzic said.

Ruzic said she has been awarded work-study for the past four years after filling out her free application for federal student aid. Even though she was eligible previously, this is the first work-study job Ruzic has had.

“The process was quite simple,” Ruzic said. “Just like any financial aid award, I had to accept it by a certain day or it might be given to someone else.”

In Ruzic’s case, she uses the money to pay her rent and living expenses. Because her work-study job only pays minimum wage and limits weekly hours to 20, she supplements her income with a second job.

“Campus jobs don’t pay very well … my work-study job pays $7.50 an hour,” Ruzic said. “I’m going to try to get the most hours possible at my other job that pays $9.00 an hour, which is about 10 hours per week.”

Some students don’t rely on campus jobs for their livelihood, but instead use them for spending money because, as former University of North Texas work-study student Elizabeth Montague said, “meal plans suck.”

“I wasn’t interested in working a job on the side, but I did it to get spending money,” Montague said.

After being awarded aid, Montague registered with her school’s work-study office and had her pick of eligible jobs on campus. She ended up as an office assistant in the university’s Office of Behavioral Analysis.

Montague said one down-side of the program at her school was the inability to pick up weekend hours.

“It’s not really making money,” Montague said. “It’s just a little bit of extra aid.”

Ruzic said her school does allow students to work weekends as long as their job is in an office that normally has weekend working hours.

For University of Washington senior Lydia Albert, the work-study opportunity came only after she volunteered on her campus with an AmeriCorps program called Jumpstart. The money was secondary to the opportunity for Albert to learn and help children, she said.

“Being part of a Jumpstart team has taught me to work well in small groups, and my experience has helped me learn to communicate both with kids and professionally with adults and parents in the classroom,” Albert said.

Besides the convenience of the location of many work-study jobs, nobody understands the time management required of student workers better than those who work with them every day on college campuses around the country.

“You worked according to whatever schedule you wanted,” Montague said. “It’s a job that is completely understanding of your school schedule.

Finding a job that understands the rigors of higher education can sometimes prove difficult, Albert said.

“Honestly, I’d probably do Jumpstart even if I weren’t eligible for work-study, but the relative flexibility in hours and the program’s understanding of my needs and schedule as a student have been wonderful,” she said.

Albert said it was easy to apply for and receive the work-study. There are forms to navigate, but each campus has an office geared toward helping students maximize their award.

“Nina at the work-study office was able to help me figure everything out within one quick visit to her office, and she’s always been super helpful in navigating any extra paperwork or deadlines that I’ve had,” Albert said.

Albert also said it was important to keep track of when the awarded money runs out. But until it does, Albert said work-study is a good deal.

“I get to read and play with adorable kids every week,” she said. “It’s a pretty great job.”

Alex Vincent Alex Vincent Alex Vincent is a Navy Veteran studying anthropology at the University of Washington. She is from Anaheim Hills, CA.

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