While I certainly don’t agree with everything President Obama recently proposed related to higher education financial aid programs, the idea of increasing funding for federal work study can be a win–win–win for students, their universities, and their future employers. Some believe that doubling work study would simply subsidize universities, not really provide additional funding for students. I disagree. Many of our clients would like to open more on-campus jobs for their students, but lack the funding to do so. And working on campus provides benefits that go well beyond simply putting money in students’ pockets. It provides students with a resume building experience, in some cases related to their future careers.
We know from freshman CIRP data that several years ago “being able to get a better job” replaced “learning more about things that interest me” as the primary reason students list for going to college, so students are eager for work experiences. Even when the work is not career-related, the opportunity to be employed on campus helps build other skills and attributes attractive to employers – a sense of responsibility, a work ethic, organizational skills, etc. Of equal importance, our retention work with clients often identifies working on campus as a statistically significant, positive driver in retention models. It makes sense – work provides another way to connect to the campus. In contrast, working off-campus in a position not connected to the university can have a negative influence on retention.
Certainly the colleges themselves benefit as well. Students can provide a valuable addition to the regular work force and in some cases are even more effective than full-time employees (e.g., when serving as peer mentors, tutors, or telecounselors).
For more information about the positive influence of work, take a look at our PowerPoint Work: the Forgotten Resource, presented jointly with Seamus Harreys, Dean of Student Financial Services at Northeastern University, at the 2009 College Board Forum.
How is your institution utilizing the federal work study program? Are your students and your institution benefiting from this resource?
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About the author: Kathy Kurz retired after 18 years as Vice President of Scannell & Kurz. Her area of expertise is developing strategic financial aid and retention programs designed to enhance enrollment and net tuition revenue results. She previously served as Associate Vice President at the University of Rochester and Director of Financial Aid at Earlham College.
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