The Editorial Board: The Work-Study Dilemma

By: The Editorial Board

Editor’s Note: The Editorial Board of the Cento is composed of members of the staff and does not reflect the opinions of any one individual on the staff. The Editorial Board represents the voice of the Cento.

Work-Study is one of the greatest opportunities provided to students by the federal government. The opportunity to have an on-campus job with serious responsibilities serves as a benefit for both the students and the campus.

The student is allowed a fairly low-hour part-time job that can help grow a useful skillset, all while working for the benefit of the college, whether it be as an office aid or a sports team manager. This developed skill set can be beneficial and long-lasting. Students working in the Scene Shop gain experience with power tools and carpentry while students with more office-oriented jobs have the opportunity to work with various computer programs.

The Work-Study program is a great way to learn skills that will be useful in the job market or the “real world.” Work-Study positions vary in hours, labor, and in time commitments, though one thing remains constant: the pay scale.

Ideally, the Work-Study grant is awarded to those in need of it and the pay scale depends on both the difficulty and importance of the work being done. According to the government website for Work-Study, “You may earn more depending on the type of work you do and the skills required for the position.”

At Centre, this is not always the case. Nearly all Work-Study jobs pay a flat hourly rate of $7.25, or minimum wage. This means that someone who is working as a sports manager is paid the same as someone who works the circulation desk in the library.

Upon first glance, this seems fine. Both positions are vital to the campus community, and they both fill a needed space. However, upon further breakdown, the flat-rate salary seems a bit unfair.

Certain jobs allow students more time for homework while others are more fast-paced and manual labor oriented. For example, those who help with recycling, the Scene Shop, or sports teams have positions that are labor intensive, leaving no time to do homework while on the clock. These positions also have much more riding on them.

For example, if the Scene Shop workers do not get their work done, the Drama Department will be hard-pressed to complete their sets in time for productions. Without the Work-Study program, the department would be more limited on the amount of shows that they could put on during the school year.

The annual trend seems to be that students migrate away from these more difficult jobs in hopes of getting an “easier” one where they might have to do less physically demanding work and have more time to study. This creates a labor shortage for Work-Study positions that are crucial, such as the aforementioned Scene Shop workers or recycling workers.

It seems only reasonable that these positions that require more labor and more time away from the books should be paid more.

And furthermore, what about students who have had experience and have put in the time at their positions? Should a first-year Scene Shop worker make as much as a senior Scene Shop worker who has put in four years worth of effort and has garnered much more invaluable technical experience?

Should a first-year Campus Center worker be paid as much as a senior Campus Center worker, who has always shown up to work and has been proven reliable?

By fixing the pay scale to take into account things like experience, reliability, and time commitment, the Work-Study program would more accurately reflect the real world, where experience and commitment tend to pay off (and the lack thereof draw consequences).

For those students who may argue that they do not have the experience or the skill set to work in the more specialized job positions, this would incentivize gaining said experience. If the salary is higher for skilled employees, it is only reasonable that employees would seek to earn these skills.

These pay scale adjustments could come in various forms. We understand that Centre operates on a limited grant given by the government, but perhaps a restructuring of the funds could help fix a pay scale rewarding experience and labor.

Ideally, more experienced workers would be able to complete tasks at a quicker, more efficient rate and would have to work fewer hours. With a higher pay rate, they would still reach the maximum of their grant, but have more time to study.

Another issue the Editorial Board finds with the Work-Study system is the lack of accountability. Because there is not a long list of people waiting for the jobs that are not in high demand, people employed in those jobs are not always held to the highest of standards. Since the Work-Study program does not function as a competitive job market, some managers are forced to settle for lower quality of work rather than no work at all.

It’s not uncommon for workers to skip work or quit, especially if they wish to be moved to a new position. This creates holes within the system that are difficult to fill, leaving much-needed jobs unfilled.

In the real world, this is not how it works. It is doubtful that a waitress or a store clerk can skip work more than once without being fired or at least without facing severe consequences. There is also the fact that these students receiving the Work-Study grant are being given money by the federal government for the explicit purpose of showing up and working: this exploitation has more severe consequences than are perhaps realized.

These jobs are not no-strings-attached scholarships and should be treated by all involved as important positions.

Altering the pay scale to reflect these concerns might provide more incentive to keep workers in the “less desirable” positions.

We, the Editorial Board, are fully in support of the Work-Study program. When achieving the ideal, the system is good, skills are learned, and benefits are realized. We simply want to raise a few issues and perhaps suggest a few tweaks to the system to potentially improve it and make it reflect a real world environment with real pay scales and real consequences.

The system is a great privilege and it should be treated as such. We understand that Centre has limited resources and that the grant only allows so much, but we feel that by raising these questions Centre will find some room for improvement.


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