As the specter of layoffs looms over the University, student jobs on campus will likely remain safe, at least for now, administrators said.
Although officials and department heads said the specifics of departmental budget cuts remain uncertain, they reiterated the University’s commitment to employing students, who can perform office work or research relatively inexpensively. Because many undergraduates hold term-time jobs in order to contribute to the self-help portions of their financial aid packages, administrators added, student jobs — unlike some positions held by overtime, temporary workers and contractors — will likely avoid being cut.
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“There’s a real incentive to hire students,” Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi said. “It’s entirely possible that a given department may decide not to hire a student. But we don’t have a reliable crystal ball as to what will happen.”
In a November 2008 Yale College Council survey of 1,417 Yale undergraduates receiving financial aid, 62 percent of respondents reported holding term-time jobs. The library system, the athletics department and the development office are the largest employers of students, Storlazzi said.
Not only do student wages make up only a small percentage of a department’s budget, Storlazzi said, but student hiring is also subsidized by the Provost’s Office, which contributes half of student wages. As a result, hiring students is a budget-friendly option for departments, he said.
“They’re very affordable,” said Richard Prum, the chair of the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “It’s not a place where you’d likely go, ‘Let’s just cut that first.’”
Although Yale’s science departments face the same budget cuts affecting the rest of the University, the national economic stimulus package — which will allocate some $14 billion for research grants — may send additional funds their way. And if Yale does receive funds, labs will likely have more research assistant positions open for undergraduates, Prum said.
Still, the budget cuts may weigh more heavily on departments that already employ many students.
“We’re really trying to figure out … what opportunities we’ll have for hiring or not,” associate University librarian Danuta Nitecki said.
Nitecki said the library employs the equivalent of more than 50 full-time staff based on the total number of hours worked by students.
Despite the cuts, University officials reiterated that making student jobs available on campus remains a priority.
“At Yale, it’s considered a vital program,” student employment office manager Matthew Long said. “There certainly has been no backing down of support from the provost or any other official for student employment.”
Provost Peter Salovey said student workers will probably not face serious cuts, if any, because students often hold jobs to fulfill the self-help part of their financial aid packages. Just over 50 percent of students at Yale receive aid, Storlazzi said.
Students receiving financial aid are expected to contribute at least $2,500 towards their financial aid arrangements during the academic year. A recent YCC report on Yale’s financial aid reforms called on the administration to reduce the amount of the student self-help contribution, both for term-time work and summer income.
Storlazzi said he expects there to be plenty of work for students who need it. There is a “slight chance” that departments will hire more student workers to cover duties formerly performed by laid-off staff, he added.
But Storlazzi and the three department heads interviewed stressed that their budgets are still taking shape, and that there will be no definitive conclusion on student jobs until the next academic year. If there is a shortage of jobs, Storlazzi said, the University might institute a system in which students receiving financial aid would be given the chance to apply for the available jobs before all other students.
With help from the provost’s office, budget office and the Business Operations Leadership Team, departments will be completing their budgets by May 1.