Cuts squeeze student jobs

It took Tiffany Polk ’12 an entire semester during her freshman year to land a job at the circulation desk of the Sterling Memorial Library, and now, as departments scale back spending, the search for on-campus employment may become even more difficult.

“My job is very important to me, Polk said. “I could not support myself without it. I know the library has stopped hiring this semester but the idea that my job might be in jeopardy is really scary.”

Tiffany Polk ’12 said she will have to take out student loans if she can’t pick up more hours at her library job.
Tiffany Polk ’12 said she will have to take out student loans if she can’t pick up more hours at her library job.

Among the measures meant to recover a $100 million budget deficit, the University has increased the amount students must contribute toward their financial aid package from $2,600 to $3,000. As a result, students on financial aid must now work an extra hour a week to avoid taking out loans — which has become increasingly challenging as departments freeze hiring and cap work hours. Of the six students interviewed who currently work on campus, all expressed concern over whether they will be able to meet the new term work contribution.

Concerned about a possible job shortage, administrators said they are pursuing new hiring strategies. Since the fall, students on financial aid have gotten preference for jobs. But now, the Provost’s Office, which already subsidizes 50 percent of all student wages, may add additional funds to a department’s general operating budget if departments could not otherwise afford to offer enough jobs, Salovey said.

“We’re making sure we can provide campus jobs with priority for students on financial aid,” Provost Peter Salovey said Friday. “We’ll ensure any decrease in the number of student jobs doesn’t get below the critical point of meeting all demand.”

The Provost’s Office and the Student Financial Services Office are also considering implementing a two-week exclusive hiring period at the beginning of each semester, during which only students on financial aid can apply for on-campus employment, Caesar Storlazzi, Director of Student Financial Services said. This policy existed until a decade ago, when the University abolished it due to a lack of demand for employment.

The Student Employment Office saw a 10 percent drop in the number of working students between fall 2008 and fall 2009, and employment figures have remained stable this year compared to last, said Matthew Long, associate director of Financial Services. Currently, 3,405 undergraduate students work on campus, up slightly from the 3,223 students who worked at the same time last year, according to the Student Employment Office.

Still, a number of departments have already frozen hiring and work hours. While the University Library is still deciding how many students it will hire this fall, an increase in the number of work hours or jobs offered is unlikely, said Diane Turner, associate University librarian for human resources. As of October 2009, the library employed 310 students, compared with 356 the year before.

Likewise, the Office of Development, which employs a large number of student callers, does not plan to hire more students this year, said Douglas Hawthorne, Associate Vice President and Director of Information and Support Services.

At residential college master’s offices, hours are set in advance, so students wishing to work more hours may only do so by taking over other students’ work shifts, Silliman College administrative assistant Joanne Young said, adding that all slots in her office are currently filled.

The University’s efforts to protect student employment will be crucial for students such as Polk, who said she dreads being unable to find employment.

“To not know whether you will have enough money to pay for your course packets is a very stressful situation,” said Polk, who said her parents cannot afford to cover the costs of her college living expenses.

When she could not find a job as a freshman, Polk said, she took out student loans to cover her living expenses. And if she is unable to work extra hours to cover the increase in the self-help portion of her financial aid package, Polk said she may have no choice but to take out additional loans.

Other students also said they have had difficulty finding employment on campus as departments reduce hiring. Two weeks ago, Jarus Singh ’12 applied for a job at the Social Science Library only to find out a week later that the department had decided to revoke the opening, he said.

While Singh said he has found off-campus work at the WYBC radio station, Charlotte Wang ’12, who like Singh also receives financial aid, said she has been searching for a second job since last semester. At a recent interview with the Office of Development, 12 students competed for three job openings, Wang added.

“The market is pretty rough this semester,” she said.

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