Come One, Come All: Work Study as a Means for Equality

Alena Harold

Ellen Lichius, Staff Writer

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The school year began and I cannot
help but feel slightly overwhelmed by my schedule.  Between classes, multiple on-campus jobs, and
rehearsals, I rarely find time to eat or relax.
One of my jobs, giving tours of campus, gives me the opportunity to
interact with prospective families and answer their questions about RMU.
A common question that I am asked is, “how do you manage all of your
classes, commitments, and class work.”
Another common question is, “does the campus offers work-study
positions, and if so, how easy is it to obtain one of those jobs.”
As someone who holds one work-study position, and two stipend positions, I naturally explain that work-study jobs are easy to find on campus.  But, are on-campus jobs really that easy to
find?

When
searching the Student Employment Program on the RMU website, one can view and
apply to one or more of the 134 posted work-study jobs.  The application form allows students to read
through positions to see each job qualification, the number of openings, hours
per week, and their coinciding contact personnel.

When
students look closer at the positions, many see that they are not qualified for
the jobs, as eleven of them are Graduate Assistant positions and another
nineteen are PREP research positions.
Many of these PREP positions prefer students of junior standing or
higher, and all require that the student be eligible for federal work-study.  Many of the other positions posted are
outdated, which leads to an even bigger question:  In a growing university that offers limited
work-study positions, should all students be eligible to apply for jobs, or
should it be limited to students that are eligible for federal work-study?

As someone who is not eligible for federal
work-study, but pays for their own education, my initial answer is that all
students should be allowed to compete for work-study positions.  In a free market society, the strongest firms
survive and the weak ones are eliminated.
In the job market, the best candidates are hired, and the weaker applicants
are advised to look elsewhere.

I have many friends eligible for work-study
who have searched aimlessly for positions on campus.  They have applied, sent in resumes, followed
up, and interviewed, just to be turned down.
Some have found that the students that are awarded the positions are not
eligible for federal work-study.  I feel
bad that they have fallen victim to a small job market, but I worked hard to
attain and maintain my positions, and take pride in my jobs.  I also realize that while I am not eligible
for federal work-study, I would not be able to pay my tuition and support
myself without these three jobs.

I have talked to other students who
have lost their federal work-study eligibility as a result of the recent budget
cuts.  If RMU decided that work-study
positions on campus could only be filled by students who qualify for federal
work-study, would it be fair to penalize those who have already fallen victim
to the budget cuts?  Would it be fair to
penalize those students whose parents make just above the federal work=study
threshold?  Would only offering work-study
positions to those federally eligible even the playing field in terms of
affordability?

All of these questions can be
answered with a simple “no.”  While those
unable to obtain a job on campus are inconvenienced, those who have been
awarded positions have worked hard for their jobs.  In some ways, our Student Employment Program
is getting us ready for the working world, a place in which the qualified rise
and the unqualified look elsewhere.

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