COVID-19 curtailing students’ work-study opportunities, income

Hundreds of thousands of college students rely on the Federal Work-Study program to help them pay for their education. But campus work-study jobs have been thrown into disarray this year as the coronavirus pandemic has forced many colleges to move online. Fifty-three percent of low-income and working-class students reported a loss of wages from on campus employment, according to a study from the Student Experience in the Research University Consortium at the University of California, Berkeley.

Related: How will work-study work this year? >

The Hechinger Report recently highlighted the consequences of disappearing work-study opportunities, especially for low-income students who rely on the money to offset the cost of books, rent, groceries, school-related fees, and more. As the U.S. Department of Education noted in a Spring 2020 advisory about COVID-related work-study disruption, “The loss of this important form of financial aid can be devastating.”

Recognizing these challenges, some colleges are taking steps to help students make ends meet and gain needed work experience during the pandemic. The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor said it will be creating more work-study jobs this year, while the University of California, Santa Barbara said it is connecting students with remote work-study positions.

Other institutions, like St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, are redirecting some of their unused work-study funds to provide emergency grants instead. The Houston Community College system, meanwhile, is looking to participate in a federal pilot project that would allow it to team up with private companies to give students work-study jobs—an arrangement prohibited under current guidelines.

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