431,388 dollars. That is how much the Federal Work-Study Allocation has decreased during the last five academic years.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Work-Study allows students to work both on- and off-campus jobs for up to 20 hours every week at $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage. The number of students involved fluctuates with changes in funding, but 333 UT students currently participate in work-study.
Depending on the time of application and degree of financial need, students can earn up to $1,500 per semester.
Jobs vary from clerical work to customer service. Some work-study locations at UT include campus dining halls, the UC Down Under, Scripps Lab, Hodges Library and WUTK.
Qualification is based on data submitted through FAFSA. Qualified recipients generally come from a household receiving an income of less than $60,000-$70,000. But other factors, like number of dependents and siblings also attending college, influence eligibility.
Due to a $51 million spending cut enacted March 1, the Federal Work-Study Program has suffered. Work-Study was one part of a $90 million spending cut passed by Congress.
Jeff Gerkin, associate dean and director of Financial Aid and Scholarships, said the decreased allocations stem not from a shift in values, but from the lack of governmental funding available.
“Obviously, funding is becoming tighter and tighter as we have budget issues, particularly at the congressional level when they’re looking at the federal budget," Gerkin said. "I think there’s a commitment to student financial aid there.
"What I think they’re doing is really looking at how those dollars are best spent based on the availability of dollars that they have."
Although UT's allocation money now rests at $1,003,072, falling from $1,258,371 in 2012-13.
Luckily, few students at UT have felt the effects of this slump.
"We still have a significant amount even for this year, in terms of a million dollars that we have for federal work-study students," Gerkin said. "So we haven’t seen any really drastic cuts. We also have not reduced the rate of pay for the students.
"We try to stay a little above minimum wage for our students in the work-study program and we’ve not had to reduce that at all."
Sophomore Natalie Cardona, a promotion assistant at WUTK, works 15 hours each week while gaining experience relevant to her course of study in journalism.
"It helps me pay for the extra things: room and board, books, school supplies ... not my actual tuition," Cardona said. "But for some kids, it's extremely vital. That's the way for paying for school. There's a lot of kids I think should be doing work-study who can't."
At the University of Maryland, several students were paid less than in previous years, while others were dropped from the program entirely. Maryland's allocation decreased from $1.2 million to $800,000, according to the school's independent student newspaper, The Diamondback.
USA Today reported an estimated 33,000 students were dropped from the program for the 2013-2014 academic year.
"To say that we’ve dropped people from the work-study, I don’t think that we have," Gerkin said. "We’ve had a comparable number of work-study positions available from year to year, but it is based on the allocation that the federal government gives us. I don’t think we’ve seen a drastic reduction."
Unlike employers not affiliated with the university, work-study employers are required to accommodate students’ schedules. Shakera Bankson, a junior in psychology and sociology, finds the hours and pace of her work-study job at Hodges Library much more convenient than an off-campus job.
“It helps me in a very big way because I have 18 hours this semester,” Bankson said. “I really don’t have time to go get an off-campus job because they're less likely to work with my schedule. Work-study is the best way for me to be able to support myself while I go to school.”
Likewise, Marista Lipsey, a sophomore in psychology, said she utilizes down time at her work-study job in the UC Down Under to complete homework.
“I have time to do what I need to do, but still have extra money so it's really helpful," Lipsey said.
At the Down Under, Lipsey and other work-study students make up about 40 percent of employees.
Down Under Recreation Coordinator Amy Anderson said work-study students complete the same application process as any potential employee.
Senior accounting major William Bowman finds the program extremely beneficial for himself and his wife, both participants in the program.
“I’m a non-traditional student," Bowman said. "My wife and I both go to school here. Financially, it pays most of our stuff. Work-study is great for us.”
Although the budget is currently stretched thin, Gerkin said he does not project ongoing decline because fluctuation is normal.
"I don’t think there’s any indication that this is a continual downward cycle," he said. "We really haven’t seen any national trend, or at least from a congressional standpoint, saying they want to reduce the scope of the Federal Work-Study Program.
"I think it’s just a matter of the balance of funding that they have versus the number of schools that they have for the program.”
Still, work-study is not promised to students, even those who are currently supported by the program.
Gerkin said federal work-study awards are done on an annual basis, so there is no guarantee a student can achieve four years worth of work-study.