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Archive for Friday, May 26, 2006

Leftover funds expand eligibility for work study

May 26, 2006

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During the school year in elementaries around Lawrence, Kansas University students stop in throughout the day for appointments to tutor "at-risk" children in reading skills.

"The kids we work with are from a low social status, so they have a totally different perspective on things," says Renee Winkler, a Kansas University junior. "They're really great kids who don't get enough attention. It's interesting to watch them succeed through the year."

Though she's gone on to pursue other work, Winkler was a two-year employee of the America Reads Challenge, one of KU's many federal work-study subsidized programs. Through the program, her wages were paid by federally subsidized funds allocated through the KU Office of Student Financial Aid.

"I've had to take out a lot of financial aid, so it's nice to know I'm not going to have to pay back all of it," she says. "It's a relief financially."

Federal work study is a government-funded program that promotes part-time employment for students with financial need. It is a need-based award, granted to eligible students through the financial aid office in an award letter.

"The federal government allocates KU the funding, and then we award it to students," says Stephanie Covington, associate director of the Office of Student Financial Aid.

In a typical work-study position, she says, federal funding covers 75 percent of a student's wages, and the individual department covers 25 percent. The 75 percent from the government is treated as earned financial aid and not reported as regular income, so it does not alter a student's financial need for the next year's financial-need assessment.

"It's a great alternative to borrowing," Covington said.

Typical work-study jobs include desk assistants for student housing, cataloging at the libraries, student hourly positions in different departments throughout the university and more. Both students and employers benefit, as employers end up paying work-study employees a fraction of what they pay regularly employed students.

To qualify for work study, students must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. When work study is awarded, each student receives a limit as to how much they are allowed to earn in federally allocated funds. The funds are similar to a grant, but they aren't worth anything unless earned.

Covington said that many students who are awarded work study don't take advantage of it, which enables more students to qualify for the opportunity.

"We have a limited amount of funds for work study, so when we have funds left over, we're able to award them back to other students," she says.

The financial aid office publicizes the availability of leftover funds starting Aug. 1 each year through its Web site.

Stephanie Bammes, a KU senior in education, is in her second and last year as America Reads coordinator. She is proud of the work, and the benefits, her position allows her to offer.

"We pay $8.50 an hour, which is pretty high for on-campus jobs," she said.

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