Government Cuts Thousands of College Work-Study Jobs

End of stimulus funding makes work-study jobs harder to get for college students

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Students hoping to earn a little extra cash on campus this fall will have a tougher time as the number of federally funded work-study college jobs nationwide will drop by 162,000 to 768,000 for the 2010-2011 academic year.That's distressing news for students when the unemployment rate for young people continues to top 15 percent, and states have been cutting scholarship budgets, says Lindsay McCluskey, vice president of the United States Student Association. "It is a very serious issue," she says.

[Read 3 Pieces of Good News About Federal College Grants.]

A spokesman for the Department of Education said the number of subsidized campus jobs has simply dropped back to its historical norm after climbing because of a temporary influx of stimulus funding. "The recovery act provided a much-needed boost to work study programs and other federal student aid programs. But significant challenges remain and all of us, both in the home and in the government, are having to do more work with less funding," said department spokesman Justin Hamilton.

A few years ago, at the height of the economic boom, many college financial aid officials complained that campus jobs often went begging as students either didn't need the money or found better-paying jobs elsewhere. But now, financial aid officers around the country say they are swamped with applicants, as more of the nation's 19 million college students are looking for jobs to raise money for tuition. 

Students can no longer assume that work-study jobs, which pay an average of about $1,500 an academic year, will be theirs for the asking, says Wilma Hjellum, director of financial aid and veteran services at the Metropolitan Community College of Omaha, Neb. Her college lost funding for 12 work-study positions when stimulus funds lapsed. The school will have work-study jobs for just 72 students this fall. More than 2,200 students asked for work-study jobs, she said. 

[Read tips for finding a part-time job.] 

Colleges like work-study jobs because the federal government pays up to 75 percent of the wages of needy students hired to help the college or local nonprofits. Most campuses have additional part-time job openings for at least some students who don't snag federally funded work-study jobs.

Aid officials recommend students opt for federally funded work-study jobs whenever possible because earnings from regular jobs can reduce students' eligibility for future need-based financial aid. Federal work-study earnings aren't counted in aid applications. 

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