Some students may find it more difficult to secure jobs on campus this fall.
In an effort to cut budgets across University units, the Provost’s Office has modified its former 50/50 wage subsidy program, in which the University provided half of the students’ income, and the other half was provided by the individual departments in which students were employed. Following an announcement in April and its implementation this fall, the Provost’s Office will only honor this plan when three major conditions have been met: Students must be undergraduates, students must qualify for need-based financial aid, and hourly wage cannot exceed $15.00 per hour. The new policy has sparked controversy among some of the departments that are absorbing higher costs of employment.
But many students and faculty remain unaware of the changes.
“In short, we are focusing all the resources available for the student-wage subsidy to be for Yale College students with demonstrated financial need in standard student jobs,” University Provost Benjamin Polak said in an email to the News following the initial announcement in April.
The reallocation of resources will help the University focus funding on students who are most in need of the support, which he said was the initial goal of the 50/50 plan when it was first put in place. By creating a subsidy for departments to pay students that qualify for funding, Polak said the University will create a competitive advantage for students on financial aid, who are often required to earn income during the term as part of their aid package.
Prior to the change, wage stipends from the Provost’s Office did not discriminate among students based on financial need, class year or job salary. Director of the Yale University Art Gallery Jock Reynolds said the former system allowed for greater meritocracy on campus.
“I was then shocked when the Provost came up with new policy,” Reynolds said. “Yale at the same time was having to rectify a $50 million structural [deficit], and I think they have been cutting all over the place and tended not to cut faculty and financial aid.”
Reynolds said he fondly recalls listening to University President Peter Salovey’s Freshman Address in Woolsey last fall, in which Salovey said socioeconomics remain the final frontier of taboo at Yale. Reynolds added that rather than discriminate hiring students based on their financial background or school, his department independently raised $4 million to subsidize the wages of graduate students and made a commitment to not lay off a single one of their student employees.
University Art Gallery Deputy Director for Finance and Administration Jessica Labbé said she estimated the gallery lost between $100,000 and $120,000 in funding from the provost’s office as a result of the modified plan. But Labbé added that the money lost was made up for by private donations. Wages at the Art Gallery begin at $13.25 per hour and can range to $26.43 for high level students positions, she said, and the gallery will continue honoring them due to the generosity of donors.
“I don’t know what it means, but some colleagues are struggling in how to deal with this,” Reynolds said. “[YUAG] is really lucky to have donors that want to support us.”
But some department heads and students may not be as fortunate. Reynolds said some departments with smaller budgets and fewer means to launch fundraising campaigns are struggling to balance employment with financial constraints.
Still, Polak said the $15 per hour cap would not discourage employers from offering higher wages when appropriate. He added that the majority of student jobs will fit the outlined parameters for funding, and many jobs — including master’s aides and research assistants — were never covered by the policy.
Alexandra Williams ’17, who is employed by the University Library system, said the cuts will not specifically affect her income. She also said the new policy’s motives are understandable.
“The interesting thing to note is what the money is now being used for, not to disincentivize departments from employing a certain type of student, but probably towards cutting costs,” she said.
Nicholas Friedlander ’17 said he was opposed to the change because students should be hired based on merit on not on their financial background. He added that although he is on financial aid and would qualify for the stipend, he believes he was hired for his skills and not the benefit he may serve to the department.
Several department members are still unaware of the change.
When asked how this would affect the department of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, Chair John Krystal said this was the first time he learned about the changes.
Other conditions of the policy stipulate that wages must be earned and paid during the academic year, including term recesses. Wages charged to a sponsored award are not eligible, and wages charged for work of a religious nature are also not eligible.