President’s budget plan would reduce federal work-study program

Posted March 29, 2017

The Trump Administration has proposed a new “America First” budget blueprint that could potentially affect financial aid for many UW-River Falls students.

The plan would significantly reduce funding for the work-study program, which 423 students are enrolled in this semester at UWRF.

Director of Financial Aid Robert Bode and his staff aim to help students gather the necessary funds for school. The work-study program is a big part of the equation for some students.

“The work-study program is part of what we consider an overall financial aid package,” Bode said. “When we are looking at a student’s need for financial aid and their costs, we’ll take funds from different pools. There’s a grant pool, a loan pool and there’s a work pool. We’ll bundle all those together.” At that point, a student can choose what they want to accept, decline or reduce.

Work-study students are paid hourly and the rates are based on the jobs.

“A technical job in DoTS (the Division of Technology Services) would probably pay a little bit more than a front counter job at one of the dormitories,” Bode said.

Work-study funds come from the federal Department of Education.

“We get about $450,000 every year,” Bode said. “In order to pay students, we have to match that. The total payment to an individual student for a bi-weekly wage would be 75 percent federal funds and 25 percent university funds.”

With much of the total for the work-study program being picked up by the federal government, a budget cut would make a drastic impact, leaving some students with fewer options. The president’s budget blueprint calls for a significant reduction in work-study funds and reform of the “poorly-targeted allocation to ensure funds go to undergraduate students who would benefit most.”

“You’d be looking at additional loans. Students could work off-campus but we would have fewer student employees on campus and fewer dollars to try to stretch further. We could keep the same number of students and lower the amount of money that we allow them to earn or we could reduce the number of students who get work-study, so it would be a tough choice,” said Bode.

Besides helping with finances, the work-study program benefits students in multiple ways.

“I think that what it provides for students is a little bit different than the typical job you might get in the private sector,” Bode said. “I think it’s valuable, first to have more of an office type experience because a lot of the jobs are office work. There are some jobs that are very closely related to their future employment plans. It’s good, general work experience.”

Bode said students learn many skills, especially on computers and working with people, that are relevant in the job market.

Laura Lusardi, a senior physics major, has been involved with the work-study program for four years. She sees many issues with President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts.

“For some people that is not an option. I have to pay for rent, utilities, tuition, car payments, insurance, whatever else and if I’m working less than 25 hours a week or less than a certain hourly wage I can’t pay for any of that,” she said. “I have to get a second job. That impacts me in a very negative way because that’s less time I’m spending on my studies. If he proposes these budgets cuts that is going to be a real problem.”

Lusardi said she feels Trump’s budget cuts would do much more harm than good.

“He needs to make things a little more accessible for people,” she said. “Students are already at a disadvantage for how much they have to pay for tuition. The cost of living is going up. If he makes these budget cuts, we’re going to see a less number of students working, we’re going to see less hours, we’re going to see less wages, meanwhile the cost of living is rising exponentially and we are not going to be able to keep up, we already can’t. I am terrified to see what’s going to happen if certain things become passed. It’s just making this gap bigger and bigger between those who can afford it and those who can’t.”

Currently, the federal government spends about $1 billion annually on the work-study program. While the budget blueprint proposes a cut in work-study funding, it safeguards funding for the Pell Grant program.