Work Study alleviates tuition hike

Celia Downes

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Many students who work on campus turn their paychecks into rent and bill payments or spending money. For students such as sophomore Patrick Atkinson, though, their earnings go toward funding their education.

Atkinson, along with 2,388 other students at Marquette, is a recipient of Federal Work Study, which was given to him to help him and his family pay for his college education.

“This is the first time I’ve taken advantage of FWS,” said Atkinson, who was awarded FWS last year but did not act on it. He is able to fit his work schedule around school and extracurricular activities, which means working six hours a week at Cobeen Hall’s hall store.

Several student jobs also give employees the opportunity to catch up on homework or studying. Atkinson often has “lots of free time” waiting for customers and spends this time studying.

“I need to get my studies done,” Atkinson said, “and I can still do my job” at the same time.

Atkinson plans to remain at the Cobeen Hall store next semester chiefly because of the job’s convenience and flexibility, but also because it “pays the bills.”

With tuition and other college funds continuing to rise, an increasing number of students are in need of awards like FWS to lessen the burden of college costs.

More students are working part- or full-time, according to Upromise.com, a Web company that helps families save for college. Since 1984, the number of working college students has increased from 49 percent to 57 percent in 2001. The tuition hikes as well as the continually unreliable economy have forced many students to seek on- or off-campus employment.

To ease the financial burden universities must face with more students asking for jobs, the federal government often awards students with FWS. FWS is distributed according to a student’s need as indicated on the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. The amount of FWS awarded varies depending on the student and parents’ contributions and the school’s tuition.

Under FWS, a student’s wages earned at a campus job are subsidized by the federal government until the student’s awarded amount — which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on need — is met. This gives campuses the financial ability to offer jobs to students, said Pat Connelly, coordinator of student employment programs at Marquette.

According to Connelly, the federal government pays 75 percent of a student’s wages, while the school is responsible for 25 percent. If the student earns his or her awarded amount of aid and continues to work, the school then takes over 100 percent of the student’s wages.

“Without (FWS), Marquette couldn’t provide the number of jobs that they do,” Connelly said.

Every department on campus offers jobs that meet FWS requirements, and some “smaller departments can only hire FWS students,” she said.

Atkinson agreed, saying a student can get a job “almost anywhere” on campus. Financial aid officials “try and be as flexible as possible” in meeting students’ needs, he said.

Marquette students with FWS earn an average of $6.00 per hour, Connelly said. The total number of positions available on campus is nearly 4,000.

Some university departments fill nearly half their student workforce with FWS students. At Facilities Services, 33 of the 76 employed students have FWS, said coordinator Debora Switalski.

“We don’t know exactly what they (have) when they come in” to work and sometimes the students are not even sure whether they have FWS, Switalski said. After the students’ applications are reviewed, about two out of five students turn out to have FWS, she said.

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