Studying Work Study

Stereotypically, a college student’s biggest decision week to week is to decide whether to buy beer or dinner on Saturday night.

Students are often poor and don’t always make the best fiscal choices.

Like most universities UVM included offer a work study program to help ease the cost of living burdened on collegeaged backs.

Initiated in 1964 as a part of the Economic Opportunity Act, the National Work Study Program was founded with a goal to “mobilize the human and financial resources of the Nation to combat poverty in the United States,” according to Jeffery T. Wallin, associate director for financial analysis.

Over 40 years in, has it done so? The process to apply for aid can be a long one. Not only do students have to complete their FAFSA forms by March 1 of the year before they intend to begin working, but once hired, they also need to fill out a Federal Work-Study Authorization Form as well as I-9 and W-4 forms for payroll purposes.

Burton Putrah, a sophomore at UVM, is one student who feels that the process is overly complicated and unfair.

“It doesn’t take into account the things that need to be measured, such as the cost of living in your home town, mortgages and loans,” he said.

The Work Study Program is federally funded something many students don’t realize. This means that qualifications for the program are need based according to Federal laws, not UVM standards.

“Federal regulations require each student’s financial aid be managed to ensure that no student is receiving more need based aid than their demonstrated financial need via the aid application process,” Wallin said.

“It is possible that a student who otherwise may qualify for the Federal Work-Study Program may not be eligible to participate in the program if their other sources of finan-cial assistance meet or exceed their demonstrated need,” he said.

In other words, students with what the government deems enough financial aid (through scholarships and grants) cannot participate in the Work-Study Program, regardless of whether or not their family’s financial circumstances may otherwise warrant it.

This leaves some students, such as sophomore David Speer, with questions, as well as considerable debts. Upon trying to apply for work study, Speer found he did not qualify for the program.

“I was never told exactly why,” Speer said. “Because the people who run the program don’t get to see financial aid records, and therefore are left as much in the dark as I was of my qualifications. I had to search elsewhere to find a job,” he said.

Neal Martorelli, a sophomore in the Work Study Program, felt that the Program’s initial aim of fighting poverty had not been achieved.

“On a grander scale, maybe it has helped overcome poverty in the nation, but in terms of individual college students, definitely not,” he said.

This limiting of student’s college experience is part of what work study is supposed to counteract.

“I don’t feel that the Program has accomplished its goal of combating poverty. Just because my tuition needs are met doesn’t mean that I don’t need a job to pay off numerous other expenses, such as the loans that I will need to pay off after college,” Speer said.

Poverty, in this case, is relative. The average college student, with or without work study, still can afford food and has a roof over his or her head, but perhaps can only afford each and cannot engage in many of the extracurricular activities more well off students can partake in, let alone begin paying back the enor-mous debt from tuition.

Gaining work experience while at college can be a tremendous asset for students on the cusp of moving into the real world.

However, the Federal Work Study Program’s goal of combating student economic hardship may be a cause lost to student’s own financial inexperience.