Work Study Limitations “Difficult” on Students During Current Economic Climate

Limited Hours, Low Wages Problematic for Many Student Workers


Published: April 30, 2009

The work study program at Fordham has recently been criticized by students who say that in the current economic climate, the pay rate and hours available are not sufficient. While officials in the office of student employment say that Fordham is doing everything it can to offer students reliable job opportunities, some students say that the University isn’t doing enough, and that some components of the way work study is structured, including its once monthly pay period, are “flawed.”

According to Fordham’s Student Employment Web site, student employees agree by signing on to accept work study “to use the earnings solely for educational expenses.” Hours vary from 10 to 15 per week, and are need-based, determined by the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

RoseMarie Raiano, senior assistant director of Student Employment, said, “The student must have filed the FAFSA and must demonstrate financial need, which is measured by the cost of attending Fordham minus the family contribution and the aid and resources the student may be receiving from all sources.” According to Raiano, the average pay rate for work study jobs is around $9 per hour.

Raiano said that the work study program has been affected by the economy in the number of applications it has received for employment.

“The current economic climate has brought an increase in the number of applicants for work study positions, especially for the Summer Program,” Raiano said. “We are trying to service as many applicants as possible within the scope of our budget.”

Maggie Eckl, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’11, said that while work study has its benefits, it also has plenty of problems.

“I love having work study, mainly for the job security. I know I will have some income for an entire academic year, and it is very convenient working inside the academic building,” Eckl said. “Also, bosses can be very understanding when you need to shift hours because of conflicting meetings, etc.”

“However, the biggest issue [is] the once monthly payroll system. [It] always leaves you hurting at least 10 days before your next paycheck comes in,” Eckl said.

Eckl said that in addition to the pay schedule, the pay rate is also less-than-ideal.

“The pay is really low, and it only increases by 25 cents a year. I wish it was better suited to meet the current economic climate,” Eckl said. “I don’t really understand how they decide on work study wages.”

Raiano explained that while the base rate for different work study jobs is different, all rates are “above minimum wage,” and “can at least cover some… school expenses.”

She said, “During the summer we do increase both rates and hours. During the academic year, the hours are limited since academics are a priority.”

Inez Gonzalez, FCLC ’12, said that for her a job, a clerical position in the communications and media studies department, the pay rate “has to be increased.”

“Also, the fact that they pay us monthly is not realistic for a college student’s budget,” Gonzalez said.

Some students say that the average pay rate, when compared to the rising costs of living in New York City and the increase in tuition and room and board at Fordham, isn’t enough to support them. Some students say that they have been forced to look for other jobs that “they just don’t have time for.”

Marc Santora, FCLC ’12, said that he is “struggling” by the end of the month. “I’ve been looking for tutoring jobs since February with no success. Finding a second job at a store would be too much for me to handle, so I have to make do with what Fordham gives me,” Santora said.

Raiano said that aside from finding a second job, students can do a lot to cut back on expenses.

“Students can save money by being more judicious in their expenditures and cutting down on some extravagances,” Raiano said. “For example, taking advantage of campus activities rather than spending money off-campus.”

Aside from the pay, some students have cited a generally bad experience with the work study program.

Cassie Foote, FCLC ’10, called her work study experience at Public School 111 in Manhattan during freshman year a “disaster.”

“With work study, you have to work a certain amount of hours in order to get work study again. And although it wasn’t my fault I had missed all those hours, I was being held responsible,” Foote said.

“Furthermore, my theater and class schedule completely conflicted with the hours they gave me at the elementary school. So I was again forced to miss work hours. And although halfway through the year I told them that I needed to be transferred to another job [for scheduling reasons], they would not [transfer me],” Foote said. “They assured me I wouldn’t be penalized. However, they did hold me responsible and I lost the opportunity for a work study the following year. I am a student that, financially, really needed a work study.”

Foote also cited pay as one of the problems with her work study experience.

“During my experience, payment was never more than a little more than minimum wage, and for the job I had, I knew other schools were paying kids between $10-12 an hour, while I only made $8.75,” Foote said. “I considered getting another job, but I had no idea how I would have time for another commitment.”

Other students, however, have a different attitude about work study, and say that it allowed them to build a strong resume.

Keith Howey, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) ’10, is the program coordinator for Fordham’s America Reads and Counts Challenge (ARCC). He said that his position is actually a work study job itself, and has given him skills and experience necessary for his intended career in sociology.

Howey said that he took the position because the program was looking for a new coordinator, but since has gained a lot from the experience, despite the “limitations” of the work study program. Howey said that at first, he was unaware that Fordham provided financial aid in the form of work study to graduate students, and that there are specific positions reserved for these students.

“Some graduates who need financial aid and would qualify for it aren’t aware of Fordham’s process [of distrubiting aid], so they don’t get it,” he said.

According to Raiano, Fordham is doing what it can to offset the struggling economy for its students.

“Fordham has set aside some funding for additional grants to assist families,” Raiano said. “Last fall, the Office of Financial Services sent an email to all undergraduates offering to help families that had suffered significant losses because of the economic crisis. Families have used this opportunity to ask for a reconsideration of their financial aid.”

Raiano said that her office hopes to “make a small increase” in the hourly rate for student workers for the 2009-2010 academic year.