The work-study issue became a heated topic upon the beginning of the new academic year. Only 140 returning students received work-study award this year even though a total number of 216 full-time, undergraduate students applied. Many students did not know they hadn't received work-study until they returned to school in the fall.
"I didn't know if I got work-study or not, so I went to the work-study orientation anyway. But in the end I didn't get the job card so I figured maybe I wasn't on the list," says Elizabeth Musgreave '11 with a look of disappointment.
"I went to the work-study meeting and realized that I didn't get it. There was absolutely no email or indication whatsoever. I had to find out on my own," says Alia Oberst '11. "I was very frustrated and panicky, now I have to spend 80 to 90 dollars per month to pay off my loan. Normally I depended on the work-study, but now I didn't get a job this year."
Both of the students say that they filled out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form prior to this semester. FAFSA requires that students who are American citizens, or eligible noncitizens, complete the form in order to apply for financial aid.
A Common Occurrence?
Although students showed their frustrations, this situation actually happens very often. According to Brittain, Dean of Financial Aid, last year, among the 258 full-time undergrads who indicated on the FAFSA that they wanted work-study, only 156 got a job on campus.
Oberst said that she heard the school has cut funds because the government did not provide as much funds as before for financial aid, but Brittain states that, "the budget has not been decreased. There actually was a slight increase in funding for this academic year to hire students."
Finding the Funds
"Wilson College receives funding for work-study programs from the Federal Work Study program for students with high financial need, and from Pennsylvania through the State Work Study Program for students who receive a PHEAA Grant who work in a major-related position. The College also provides additional funding for student employment. From all sources, the work-study will provide around $250,000 for students." However, she continues, "We always have more students who want to work than available funding to hire them." Therefore, the Financial Aid Office had to cut students who did not turn in the application on time or did not provide enough information.
The Student's Responsibility?
Wilson College starts the financial aid process every year on Jan. 1. Students fill out the FAFSA form and the form goes to the Financial Aid Office. According to the Financial Aid Office's Web page, Wilson College's priority deadline is April 30 "for maximum consideration for all types of aid."
Brittain says that the Financial Aid Office sent e-mails to the students in January and March to remind them of the FAFSA form. However, some students still forgot to apply, or turned in their applications as late as September.
"There are also students who lacked information in their application," says Brittain, "such as tax return information is needed by FAFSA. And some students never signed their electronic signature correctly." She also adds that, "Students need to remember to apply as early as possible. Usually we will be out of money at the beginning of May. Students who apply after that may miss out."
Lack of Work-Study or Lack of Communication?
The frustration that most students have expressed in this issue lies in the Financial Aid Office's lack of communication with the students. Oberst says that the school "should have at least contacted students right away when they ran out of money."
Due to the lack of information, many students have misunderstood the issue. Some students think that working positions have been cut in several departments, such as the Conference and Special Events Office. But according to Kathy Lehman, Director of Conferences and Special Events, "We were not cut [sic] our work study position."
Besides, who should get the scholarship is also a debated topic among the student body. Musgreave thinks that, "Instead of giving the scholarship to whomever applied first, I think the Financial Aid Office should give the money to people who need it the most."
Hope for Students Seeking Work-Study
Students who did not get work-study can ask the Financial Aid Office to put them on the waiting list. There are about 35 students on the list now. The Office is currently waiting for all the job cards to come back and see if there are still available positions for these students. "We are still working on it because we don't want our students to miss out," says Brittain. She also mentions that the Financial Aid Office "maintains outside scholarship information periodically" to all students. "There aren't many now. But we will let them know in late September or October," says Brittain.