By Cooper-John Trapp, Staff Writer
Work-study funded jobs do more than dot the campus landscape. From the admissions office to the Gorham mail room to the journalists at the Free Press, work-study students perform tasks vital to university operations.
So, what is this thing called work-study and how does one get it? A work-study position is a job specifically for students in need to supplement their earnings at college. Most jobs are on-campus.
Federal Work-Study was initially established by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The act created the program to, “stimulate and promote the part-time employment of students in institutions of higher education who are from low-income families…” 75% of the funds are federally sourced, and 25% are university funded, according to Associate Director of Financial Aid, Jami Jandreau.
To receive work-study, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and mark on the FAFSA that they wish to be considered for work-study. To be eligible, students must demonstrate financial need. The FAFSA determines each student’s financial need based on estimated family contribution, the institution’s cost of attendance and external sources of aid.
With exceptions, students must be a U.S citizen, U.S national, or a U.S permanent resident enrolled in at least six credit hours. Eligible students are those enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate or professional degree program. For the 2018-2019 academic year, about 1,700 students at USM were initially offered a Federal Work-Study award. Currently, there are about 1,100 students earning those funds.
The Federal Work-Study program requires that students be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. However, Jandreau says when the city of Portland raised their minimum wage, USM moved to match that for its work-study students employed in Lewiston/Auburn, Gorham and Portland. Current USM hourly work-study wages are between $11.00 and $11.55, depending on the job.
For a student to see their work-study award, they must log into MaineStreet through the myCampus portal and select ‘Student Self-Service.’ then ‘Student Center.’ Under the ‘Finances’ section, select ‘View Financial Aid,’ and select the current aid year. If they receive financial aid, ‘Federal Work Study’ will appear in the section with grants, loans and scholarships.
USM awards are between $1200 and $2800 per academic year. That amount is split between semesters. For example, if the total work-study award is $2080, then each semester the student is eligible to earn a total of $1040. Supervisors work with students to plan their schedule out – how many hours of work-study their award provides – to make sure it lasts them through the year. If a student works their way to the maximum award, the department they work for may hire them on with department funds. Additionally, they can inquire with the Student Financial Services office if extra funds are available.
To apply for a work-study position, log onto myCampus and click on the blue cube icon in the ‘launch pad’ section of the myCampus home page. That connects to the USM’s Career Connections job portal. On the left sidebar, under the ‘jobs’ tab, select ‘Work-Study Jobs’ to see all currently open positions. Some departments will also list job openings on bulletin boards around campus. Select a position to see its description, requirements and application instructions. Some applications may be completed online. Others will specify the employer and their contact information.
Applications may require a resume, cover letter, or written submission. Students have access to the USM Career Hub that can help them through the application process. The Career Hub has walk-in hours Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or by appointment during the rest of the week.
Upon hiring, students work with their supervisor to obtain necessary documentation and complete all necessary paperwork to begin work, including forms I-9, W-4, direct deposit, confidentiality agreements and online training. Students need to provide personal identification and proof they can work in the U.S by using a social security card and driver’s license or a passport.
Jandreau encourages students to make the most of their work-study job and to, “choose a job related to their major, job skills, customer service skills,” she says. Work-study jobs are not simply created for students to do their homework, but if there is a slow period during their shift they may have the time to do so. Some jobs are busier or require more technical training than others.