Upon returning to campus this semester, students found their allotted work study hours severely cut back. While the amount earned is expected to fluctuate according to a student’s FAFSA (The Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and their specific financial need, a cut in hours implicates issues with financial aid on campus.
According to Michele Hensley, director of EMU’s Financial Aid Office, work study hours did indeed change in such a way that the majority of those who participate in the work study program would, unfortunately, be making less money this year. Michele made clear that the reasons behind these changes are not simple ones, and that they were in no way taken lightly when put into place.
The inherent problem, according to Hensley, lies not with EMU’s Financial Aid program, but with the overarching financial aid guidelines put in place by the federal government.
“What happens is that when the federal minimum wage gets increased, we have to pay more to the student, which we want to do, but we didn’t get our allotment increased.” In this case, it is specifically an imbalance between the federal guidelines for minimum wage, and the amount of money EMU is allotted in order to pay its students.
“That means,” said Hensley “that we have to either reduce the amount being awarded… or we’re gonna reduce the amount of people that are eligible by making the financial need criteria harder to meet. Well, we don’t like that here because that means that you give more money to less students. So, the only logical thing that we had to do was to cut the amount that you can earn.”
“I think we should probably be grateful that we’re allowed to do work study at all,” said John David, Sophomore.
“We’re basically going to college and getting paid for it instead of having to come to college and then have to go out looking for a job, where we would have to drive there, whereas here, we come from class and go right to work.”
Hensley stated that a substantial increase in the allotment has not happened in many years, and with every coming year, more and more students are seeking financial aid in order to make college a possibility, along with a larger amount of students searching for work on campus as less jobs are available in the surrounding community.
“The idea is that [with the bettering economy], when other places begin to pay more than the federal minimum wage, capable students will stop working in the federal work study program, and start working outside jobs. And if that happens, the first thing we will do is to ask, ‘Okay, how can we fix this?’”
What has been made clear is firstly, those who have been in the program for more than one semester will see a decrease in their work study hours.
Secondly, Hensley clarified that it is not the Aid office that is to blame for work study hours taking a dip. The financial aid counselors do their best each year to ensure students receive as much aid as they can with what is allotted to EMU. Lastly, hope remains.
“The goal is not to keep [aid] where it is,” Hensley said. “The goal is to get it back up to where it was.”
-Lani Prunés, Managing Editor ; Kevin Treichel, Co-News Editor; photo cred. Colt Duttweiler, Staff Photographer