Local universities compare distribution of federal aid

Did you know that on average, people pay approximately $15,605 a year for tuition for a public institution, and approximately $31,975 a year for private institution? These are the yearly costs before any kind of financial aid assistance, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

With the prices rising, students need all the help they can receive. The federal government and the university provide many different forms of financial help. Through their aid, students have the opportunity to be eligible for the federal work-study program.

Students often times depend on the financial aid provided by the government, and the university to be able to afford college. Students have opportunities where they can make extra money through work- study. However, some wonder whether all students given a fair opportunity for a job?

It’s almost incomprehensible to think that St. Vin- cent college (SVC), Waynesburg University (WU), Washington and Jefferson College (W&J), and Seton Hill University (SHU)–four private institutions that all within a 70-mile radius from one another–differ so much in how much money each institution will pay their working students.

“They [the government] provide general guidelines for the work-study program, but schools have flexibility in how they distribute their work-study dollar allotment,” said MaryAnn Dudas, the financial aid representative for SHU.

In order to gain work-study, a student must qualify for it. Universities base their distribution of financial aid on the government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is why it is critical for all students to complete these forms.

FAFSA is a form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.

However, are these forms and regulations up to date? Are the old standards compatible with modern times to give the proper financial aid to students and to meet their economical needs? If the government cannot change the regulations, then the institutions cannot give further aid to students in need.

A way to show the differences in financial aid and work-study at the universities is to show the amount that each institution pays their work-study students and to see how it differs.

“The students are paid minimum wage and can work up to 15 hours in a week. There are 15 weeks in a semester. If a student needs more hours, than they need special permission from Academic Affairs,” said George Santucci, SVC financial aid representative.

“Normally, the maximum that a student can earn per year is $1,400, or $700 per semester. This however, may vary depending on the job and the actual hours worked by the student,” said Matthew Stokan, WU financial aid representative.

“We limit earnings to $2000 for the entire academic year, so roughly $1000 per semester. We limit the amount of hours to 10 per week,” said Christine Shaffer, W&J financial aid representative.

“Typically students at Seton Hill can earn a maxi- mum of $750 per semester. Some positions such as Residence Assistants in the residence halls earn the full amount of their room and board. Occasionally a department needs to request a slightly higher amount for work-study, and this situation is evaluated on an individual basis. The amount of work-study awarded at different institutions can vary widely,” said Dudas.

Through comparisons with other schools, student’s earnings can range anywhere from $700 to $1631.25 per semester. Each interviewed university was given the opportunity to release a statement about how their budgets were set. All replied that it is “based upon each individual student’s FAFSA”.

“The government monitors our awards, and I complete reports for them several times per year,” said Shaffer.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “The Federal Work Study (FWS) Program provides funds for part-time employment to help needy students to finance the costs of postsecondary edu- cation. Students can receive FWS funds at approximately 3,400 participating postsecondary institutions. Hourly wages must not be less than the federal minimum wage.”

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 3.46.00 PMFactors that are taken into consideration while being considered to be eligible for FWS include the student’s income and assets, parent’s income and assets, the family’s household size and number of family members attending a postsecondary institution.

According to statistics, Americans owe more than $1 trillion in student loans. That is approximately 30K for an average student who is attending a private institution for the 2012-2013 school year.

The approximate average back in 2008-2009 was close to 25K. “The cost has risen significantly over 4-5 years,” according to the American Student Assistance Association. Wouldn’t available work-study jobs help to eliminate part of the debt for college students?

According to the Social Security Association (SSA), the base average for the cost of living in 2012 was $226.936. The base average for 2013 is $230.327. This average exceeds $226.936 by 1.5 percent.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 3.47.16 PMThe rise of tuition and the cost of living have changed drastically throughout the years, but the eligibility regulations for FWS has not. Isn’t it time that the requirements are adjusted to coincide with the expenses of life and education.

“Qualifications for FWS do not change year to year unless the federal government changes their policies and regulations. So far, they have been concentrating on other federal aid programs, not work-study,” said Dudas.

There are times when a student would benefit from having a work-study job, but does not qualify. “This year has been unusual because we usually have too many students and not enough jobs, but this year it is the opposite. So we have more non-work-study eligible students working than other years,” said Shaffer.

The University of Southern California released an article that stated, “Federal work-study programs, which allow students to work in part-time jobs to help pay tuition, will be slashed by $49 million. Approximately 33,000 fewer students nationwide will be eligible for work-study once cuts go into effect.

The federal government limits the number of students who can qualify for work-study and do not change the regulations accordingly and is cutting the work-study budget. All of these can affect students and their ability to pay for an education.

“My only complaint is the federal government continues to cut funding to the federal work-study pro- gram, which has been an invaluable asset to so many students and their futures over the years. I’m worried about how it will affect the universities and students,” said Stokan

By the facts and figures presented, and the opinions of professional financial aid representatives, work-study has proven itself to be a valuable asset for college students. It’s time that it is fought for so students have the opportunity for further aid.


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