Erica Thomas ’03 is a religious studies major, but that’s not why she spends 10 hours per week behind the circulation desk of Sterling Memorial Library, Yale’s mock cathedral.

Thomas works because she has to.

But she may soon be able to spend more time reading about cathedrals than working in one.

When financial aid reforms go into effect next fall, the required student contribution will drop several thousand dollars, and undergraduates on financial aid will have to decide whether and how much to continue working.

Many students said they plan to hang onto their work-study jobs, but University officials said it is too early to detect an overall trend.

Diane Williams, the supervisor of the student employment office. said she was not sure how the aid reforms would affect her department.

Myra Smith, the director of undergraduate financial aid, did not have much more insight.

“I’m hoping the lower [self-help] level and new flexibility lets kids change what they want to do from year to year and semester to semester,” Smith said.

But she said she could not predict whether students would give up loans, jobs or a combination of the two.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Smith said.

While administrators are uncertain about the student body as a whole, individual students employed by the University seem to know what they will do next year: work.

“I can’t imagine not working, because I always have,” said Katelin Carr ’04, who works at the Yale Center for British Art and a local preschool. “Being immersed in a work environment — is a good thing in that you realize there really is more to life than Yale and studying.”

But Carr said she would get the same perspective from working only a few hours each week. She said she would love to devote some of time she currently spends working to extracurriculars “and maybe even academics.”

Carr said she hopes the new student contribution requirement — combined with this year’s 28 percent rise in wages — will allow her to work less next fall, but she said she will mainly use the financial aid reforms to decrease her loans.

Vanessa Janowski ’04 agreed.

Janowski has worked for the Yale Alumni Fund and as a language tutor, a job which she said she might not have done if she did not have to.

Still, she added, she would pick work over debt.

“They’re a bad thing,” Janowski said about loans, echoing the sentiments of her classmates.

But even if students can meet their entire expected contributions through work-study jobs alone, Smith said “the student loan rates are still a pretty good deal,” and added that some students might consider taking advantage of them to help with family contributions.

William Frazier ’04 does not have a choice — he is paying for his entire education independently.

Frazier, who said he would not work at all if he did not have to, clocks 12 to 15 hours per week as an editorial assistant for the Yale University Press.

While Frazier said he would like to work less next year, he anticipates keeping the same work schedule and taking out smaller loans.

“I have to work,” Frazier said. “I can’t afford school otherwise.”