Work study funds take cuts

Robyn Goodman

NMU had to cut its work study program this year because the state could not contribute funding for the 2010-2011 school year. Though the federal work study funding has not been cut, the university lost $150,000 because of the loss of state funding.

The condition of the Michigan economy is affecting the public universities. When the government decided that it would not be able to contribute funding to the work study programs, NMU had to cut its work study program, said Mike Rotundo, director of financial aid.

“The loss of funding combined with students filing their FAFSA earlier and more students demonstrating financial need for work study caused us to run out of our projected work study funds by the end of July,” Rotundo said.

The financial aid office has been busier than usual because of the smaller number of students who were awarded work study, Rotundo said.

Many students were not awarded work study because of the cut in funds. The state only funds 15 percent of the total work study funding, but at a smaller university like NMU, this affects many students, Rotundo said.

Work study is based on a student’s financial need. If a student wishes to be evaluated to receive work study, they must say so on their FAFSA, demonstrate financial need through the results of their FAFSA and meet the satisfactory and measurable progress standards.

The sooner a student files their FAFSA, the sooner they will be considered when the financial aid office allocates the funds.

Since NMU does not assign work study, the students who are eligible must apply for a job once they get to campus. The PEIF and dining services are two specific places that accommodate students with work study. Many departments on campus hire a large number of students who have work study.

“Work study is not the traditional financial aid,” said Rotundo. “It does not go through the billing department; it goes to the students directly through a paycheck.”

Work study funding is specifically put toward the student’s paychecks. The student gets a normal paycheck but the money comes from a different place, said Steven LaFond, assistant director of career services. The university only has to pay 25 percent of the student paycheck, while the state and federal funding pays the remaining 75 percent.

“The (work study) funding ultimately saves the university money,” LaFond said.

While most of the work study jobs are on campus, there are a few jobs off campus that students can apply for. The best way to find a work study job is  to search the career services section of the NMU website, LaFond said. The website has all of the on-campus jobs and some off-campus jobs that are available.

“The career services center will help any student that comes into the office, but their best bet is to look on the website,” LaFond said. “We update it daily.”

Many academic departments on campus do not have the funds to hire many students, but with the help of the work study funds, they can hire more students, he said.

The Wildcat Den is one place where many work study students can find employment. Katrena Spierling, junior elementary education major, has been a work study employee in the Wildcat Den for the past two years. Spierling filled out her FAFSA in the summer and included that she wanted to be considered for work study.

“Once I got to school, I filled out an all-campus job application,” said Spierling. “I’ve been working at the Den ever since.”

While there is currently no funding left for work study, the financial aid office will be reviewing the usage of work study funds in October to determine if there are funds that can be given to more students. They are currently taking requests to put on file.