At Occidental College, there are two types of people: those with work study, and those without. Without a work award, students are allowed to work up to 15 hours a week (barring special circumstances) and earn up to $3,300 during the academic year. With a work award, however, a student can only be awarded a maximum of $3,100 in work study and therefore be capped at a lower amount of work per academic year. The discrepancy creates a dangerous cleavage between those with a work award and those without in terms of earning power and tends to stop those whom the College has deemed as needing the work from being able to earn their keep.
To set these caps at differing dollar amounts sends the message to students that they would be better off taking out a loan and paying it off with 3,300 dollars of non-work study money than to take a work study award of significantly less. Even more than that, one could imagine a scenario where award-blind employers would start to hire only non-award students, knowing full well they could work more and would not be cut off mid-semester.
As it exists currently, work study students are given preferences for certain on-campus jobs that require work awards, a policy which rightfully protects those that have been provided this financial aid. However, it’s nonsensical for those jobs to require more hours than can officially be worked by the work study award.
As students move up the ranks and inherit more responsibility from their employer, their stock moves up to a point well beyond their guaranteed amount. It’s unfortunate for the students on work study to have to cut their hours or scale back their work schedule, just because they’ve been ostensibly given preference for the job.
Even more so, the website for work study is plastered with warnings that on campus jobs are not guaranteed for work study awards. If Financial Aid was truly serious about providing these work awards, they would work to provide a guarantee for work study students for some type of on campus job.
Even if this last point proves too radical to implement, the inherent undertones still should ring true with the students on work study and all those who work on campus. The College prides itself on providing a wide range of work opportunity for students (aside from the obligatory disclaimer about no guarantees), but doesn’t do nearly enough to establish a respectable post-employment relationship with the student.
Current policy discriminates against those working to pay for their college through work study by enforcing a cap that unequally favors those not on work study, a policy that at the very least must be equalized, if not extended. The solution is bold but nonetheless the right foot forward for the College and its hard-working students.
This editorial represents the collective opinion of the Occidental Weekly Editorial Board. Each week, the editorial board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental Community.
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