Changes to Work Study Program Leave Students Out of Loop
Recent changes to The New School’s work study program have caused problems for students at the start of the academic year, with some losing their eligibility for work study without notice and unable to apply for jobs until at least October. The changes come as a result of the university’s increasingly strained work study program, which provides federally subsidized jobs to students.
Every year, The New School receives a set amount of funds from the federal government to use for work study. In previous years, the university has allowed all who qualify, via federal student aid, to apply for a work study position at the school. But with a bad economy putting the squeeze on students, more have elected to apply for jobs, increasing the strain on the university’s limited budget.
With less money to go around, the financial aid office made changes to their eligibility policy. Students who were eligible for work study last year, but did not take advantage of the funds, no longer have their eligibility renewed at the start of the next year. Instead, they must reapply, but those that do are finding that most work study funds have already been promised.
Elliot Anderson, assistant director of financial aid, explained that the school’s previous system had proven dysfunctional.
“Last year, all students who were eligible got work study and we ended up offering more then we actually had,” Anderson said. “The amount of work study money received by the school has been decreasing every year from the government.”
Students affected by the rule change have complained about a lack of communication from the financial aid office.
Parsons sophomore Michael Anderson only became aware he had lost his work study eligibility when he received his financial aid award letter at the beginning of the semester. He said he had arranged his class schedule around the prospect of a school job.
“I went in to talk to them and they said that I qualified for it, but they didn’t have funds anymore,” Anderson said. “They said by mid-October they might have another cycle of funds coming in, and that I should come back in then.”
“It puts me in an awkward position,” he added. “And it seems kind of unfair that they never notified us.”
Elliott Anderson says that the university mentioned the policy change in information sent to students, and that most students rarely read the extensive amounts of information sent by the office. He added, however, that the office still didn’t have a great way of sending targeted notifications to aid recipients.
“We try to post everything online, but it’s not like students check that. I think it was also in the auto-response that students get when they email us,” he said.
Michael Anderson said larger changes have to be made with how the school handles work study in order for the program to improve. The New School told him that much of the funds already earmarked this year may be reserved for students who end up not using it, thereby continuing the dilemma regarding how to distribute work study funds at the university.