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Federal Work-Study Program Has Been Hit by COVID-19

study during the pandemic

Things just got a little worse for working students. As if you didn't have enough reasons to stress these tumultuous days, the pandemic is coming for your work-study aid.

During my first year in college, I landed several jobs through the federally-funded program. From assisting in the admissions office to updating library archives, I did everything I could to support my studies. And you know what? Even though I felt miserable many of those days, I recall them with gratitude. The gigs kept me afloat financially. Imagine how heartbroken I was to discover that the work from home (WFH) era threatens to cut the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program.

So, where do we stand now? What does it mean for you as a working student? Ahead, I attempt to interpret the commentary of industry experts on the topic and add my take on the issue.

Access to Work-Study Funding reports that many students will see their working options enabled by FWS either abridged or nullified this year. The federally-funded job program made headlines for all the wrong yet apparent reasons. FWS, and the much-needed income it helps to create for students, might fall another victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whether you can access your FWS funds depends entirely on the financial policies instituted by your college. Given the predilections of our money-grabbing institutions, it doesn't bode well. A case in point is Mount Holyoke College, whose representatives say the financial aid can be unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, on the other hand, states that its payments will remain unabridged. Contact your college to find whether or not the access to federal funds will be granted.

I don't even want to think about how many students might bear the financial consequences of pandemic-induced unemployment. Wild times.

Competition for Limited Resources

Clearly, the money-allocation formula is too murky to even start to ponder. The consequences of its application, on the other hand, are too dark to consider without a shudder. According to Emma Kerr (2020), who reports for, "students may find themselves competing to get one of the limited on-campus jobs available this year and weighing the health risks that follow." Did I mention how wild these times are?

A Glimpse of Hope

Not all educational institutions throw unfortunate learners in the state of despondency. Some colleges offer a glimmer of hope to learners hard-pressed for money. Mount Holyoke and Dickinson College that cannot access FWS funding, will support their students through special grants. In her incisive article on the topic, Kerr (2020) mentions other schools that plan to issue "revised financial aid packages that rescind work-study aid entirely and replace it with larger student loans." So, as you can see where there's a will, there's a way. I can only wish that our educational institutions were not so desperately will-impoverished.

Online Work

The pandemic has undermined whatever slim chance you had to support your studies, but (and it's a big one) it has opened opportunities for some students. Yeah, I know, never a dull moment in 2020. To be more specific, the California State University has recently announced that its students are expected to attend online classes during the fall season, which also entails online jobs for the participants of the FWS program (Kerr, 2020). Of course, who is eligible to work will be decided on a case-by-case basis. It will depend on the nature of work and the previous participation in the program. Students who have worked through their studies will be given preference over their unexperienced counterparts. As for the amount of funding itself, it is not likely to differ from the prior year.

If you wonder what kind of jobs are remotely available, the University of Houston provides you with a hint. At the institution, the positions of data entry, research, and marketing, assistants are expected to be available for the FWS participants.

Alternative Options

The epidemiological reality we face has put students in an unfortunate economic position. True. But it's also true that you have other options to fall back on in case the availability of grants or FWS jobs doesn't favor you. There are student loans with a lower than usual interest rate. There are also emergency relief grants in many colleges across the country. Finally, there are alternative forms of employment. For example, talented students might make some money on a side by becoming paper writers.

Time for Leadership

Are the aforementioned options perfect? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Rather than presenting you with the assortment of either vacuous, trivial, or downright horrendous measures, our government should finally start acting on your behalf. This is an extremely opportune moment for educational leadership. To avert a disaster that might leave millions of students in the cold, the federal relief grants should be allocated ASAP. But alas, desperate times are desperate in more than one way.

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