Work study: Doing the work to stay on top


With its proximity and need for volunteers, the Wilkes-Barre YMCA is the No. 1 place students choose for work-study in the community.

Alyssa Stencavage, L&A&E Editor

There’s a way to keep your bank account alive and well while at college. It’s work study, and it comes in a couple different forms.

Federal Work Study is a program funded by the federal government and awarded to students with financial need to help defray some of the costs of education. The funding level for each school is determined by the US Department of Education.

“I look at it as an opportunity for students to earn money to defray costs and an opportunity to learn job skills while they’re at it,” Executive Director of Student Services Dr. Janine Becker said.

Outside of the Federal Work Study Program, Institutional Work Study funding is provided by the university to allow some departments to hire students. The amount available is determined by the university and there is no financial need requirement. The jobs offered remain the same; the difference is where the funding comes from.

Both types provide a way for students to pick up some extra money while also learning skills for on the job.

The application process begins with a simple visit to the portal, where job listings are available for both programs. The legal and HR paperwork required to secure a position is available at the Student Services front desk in UCOM.

In order to obtain a work study position,you must be eligible. Becker said eligibility is a function of FAFSA form information that will determine what financial aid is appropriate to a given student, and work study is one of those. Again, it is important to remember that a basic component of work study is that it is “need” based, and therefore requires some type of financial need. Also keep in mind, as Becker said, that the financial aid aspect of the deal won’t come without following the rules.

There’s another type of work study available to students as well, one that involves placements in the community. Again, this also acts much like a real job in that an interview is arranged with an off-campus agency, which then decides who will get the job.

Coordinator of Student Development Megan Boone said she also has to make sure that the funds she has correspond with the number of students she is taking on. Before they can actually start the job, students are also required to get two signatures, from Boone and the agency they will be working with.

Boone said the nice part about a community service work study job is that it allows students to work through breaks. The flexibility of off-campus work study funding and the opportunity it gives students to shine doing what they do best is another benefit of working in the community. It enables them to disperse their talents throughout the community, and then bring those efforts and funding back to school. For example, a students working with the Red Cross can organize a blood drive back at Wilkes.

“Students can really gain that extra part of what makes them a student,” Boone said. “It gives them the opportunity to earn money that they need toward education and to study.”

With the number of work study jobs in the area, allowing students to get involved is the most logical approach and also gives them an edge, although Boone said academics come first.

“Since we have so many agencies we work so closely with off campus, it only makes to have a student help promote those programs,” Boone said.

In fact, Boone said the YMCA is the number one place students opt to give their time, especially considering it’s close and always looking for volunteers.

“There are so many things students can do here on campus.” Boone said. “Agencies really rely on our students.” “Students can really gain extra part of what makes them a student.”

Another positive aspect of off-campus work study are the relationships that are built.

“Even if we don’t already have a partnership with an agency, we can create one with an organization that students are passionate about,” Boone said.

While off-campus work study and the corresponding funds can be good on all sides, those funds do run out and Boone said having to tell an agency they can’t continue constitutes the most difficult obstacle for students.

“It’s a little bit challenging to have that financial element to it,” she said. “I wish we had unlimited funding.”

Work study isn’t restricted to those who live on campus; Becker said she’s had residents, commuters and off-campus applicants.

Another aspect of work study that can be advantageous for students is the flexibility that every administrative and academic department offers because each understands that most students have full agendas.

For students alone, Becker said work study is an integral part of the college facilitation process.

“A lot of students really count on that piece of their financial aid to make ends meet,” Becker said.

Even though college can be tough, students also see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Senior second year pharmacy major Corinne Aucker holds small group tutoring sessions for students in both General and Organic Chemistry as well as Freshman Biology, where they go over book problems and homework. Sometimes students are given made-up questions to try to solve themselves. These sessions are for any skill level and do not require any prior sign-ups.

“I think work study is important because it gives students the opportunity to make money without leaving campus,” Aucker said. “I particularly like my work study position because it enables me to not only help other students, but keep old coursework fresh in my mind to build off of in future courses.”

Aucker feels that the impact is felt all around.

“Work study jobs benefit the entire student body, not only the students filling that position,” she said.

“Without these jobs, the libraries could not function as smoothly, there would be no peer tutoring or writing center and food services would have to hire more full-time employees to keep everyone fed. I think that if any student has an extra couple hours to fill in his or her schedule, work study is a very easy way to impact others’ lives, meet new people and stay connected within the campus. It can be a rewarding experience if you put your heart into it, and it doesn’t hurt to earn a little extra cash in return when living on a strict college budget.”

Sophomore psychology major Allyson Spak has been working in Student Services since her freshman year and sees her position as an enlightening one.

“I think it’s an important job because it allows me to gain a better understanding of how records of students are kept as well as the initial application process for freshmen, transfers and graduates,” she said. “A lot of behind the scenes work happens in Student Services and not all students get the opportunity to witness that. I think by working at Student Services I have achieved a greater appreciation for the employees of Wilkes University.”

Work study can be a worthwhile endeavor, and it shouldn’t be overlooked.

Becker said “one of the biggest misconceptions that both students and parents do not understand is that this is not a dollar amount paid to students. Rather, it represents an opportunity for a student to find a job, work at that job and then earn the money in the form of a monthly paycheck.”

Although most students who participate in work study have prior work experience, this is especially true for some that haven’t had a job previously are surprised at the responsibilities attached to getting the position.

“Work study gives them the opportunity to understand how that part of the world works,” Becker said. “It is a real job – you can be hired and fired. I can’t emphasize that part of it enough.”

Students might be surprised at what goes along with having a working position, they might also not realize that just because a job is available, doesn’t make it guaranteed. Becker said another major misunderstanding is the belief that every student can have a job.

“People think we can hire everyone who wants a job, but that’s just not the case,” Becker said.

Becker said in terms of the federally-funded work study program, funds are limited. Work study jobs are available to those who qualify. The “first-come, first-serve” concept comes into play when securing those jobs.

If a student is concerned about not being quick enough in acquiring position, that’s where the institutional side can save them, as Becker said it makes up for some of the gap in the federal work study program and is able to provide for more opportunity than just on the federal level.

Considering the mistakes made regarding work study, some advice from those who see issues first-hand might be helpful.

There’s always talk about finding a work-life balance, so that little things with easy fixes don’t turn into big messes, and the same goes for work study. Becker said students have to be realistic about how many hours they can handle while also being a full-time student.

Another useful and essential tip is both students and parents taking the time to ensure that all necessary paperwork is complete before a student starts working. Otherwise, problems will arise.

Last, but certainly not least, is students remembering why they are here and factoring that into the overall equation.

“One of the other misconceptions is that students will be able to work a greater number of hours at their work study job, but because the Wilkes curriculum is challenging, they are often not able to work more than eight to 10 hours per week. Because of this, work study can help defray some expenses, but will usually not be able to cover a large portion of tuition,” Becker said. “They have to factor that in when looking at how they’re going to cover costs. We want them to do well, even though working through school is a good thing, they have to be realistic.”

Work study can provide an outlet away from studying. However, they do fill up, which makes immediate contact that much more important.

“There are only so many positions across campus and so much funding allotted, so the sooner the better,” Boone said.

Even if you’re not approved, don’t lose hope. Boone said there are still easy-to-find community service scholarship opportunities available.

For questions or more information, contact Dr. Janine Becker at (570)-408-8009 or [email protected], or Megan Boone at (570)-408-5905 or [email protected]