State Work Study cuts felt by Whitties

Derek Thurber

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As Washington State legislators gathered this week in a special joint session of the House and Senate to finalize the 2011-2013 state budget, the 203 Whitman students who currently receive Washington State Work Study (SWS) are watching in anticipation of looming cuts.

“Work Study really helped put my own mind at ease,” said sophomore Sergio Garcia who is the president of the First Generation/Working Class Club and receives federal work study. “To cut even this one part of the state’s budget means denying countless numbers of students from economically challenged backgrounds the opportunity to earn those last few hundred dollars that make a college education financially feasible.”

As it currently stands, the House proposal, which was first announced on April 5, would cut 4.4 billion dollars from the state budget. Specifically, these cuts would include decreasing the availability of State Need Grants money for private college students and the elimination of the State Work Study program entirely.

Although the proposed Senate budget, which was passed on April 12, cuts 4.8 billion dollars and also includes a decrease in State Need Grants for private colleges, it keeps SWS in place, but funded at a lower level.

The Senate’s budget would provide 23 million dollars for SWS, a decrease of 22 million dollars from anticipated levels. This would result in the loss of 3,100 SWS awards for graduates and undergraduates at schools across the state of Washington.

The exact effects of these cuts on Whitman students are still unclear, but according to Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Tony Cabasco, this year Whitman received 158,000 dollars in SWS monies which has funded SWS jobs for 203 Whitman students.

“Not having a campus job would put me in a very difficult position,” Garcia said. “While employment is necessary, working off campus while also attending school is much different.”

Another student who currently benefits from SWS, and who wished to remain anonymous, echoed concerns over the possibility of job loss resulting from these cuts.

“If it wasn’t for work study, I believe students would have a tougher time finding jobs,” the student said. “[SWS] makes job access easy for a full-time student.”

First-year Angela Loftus does not think the SWS that she receives makes a big impact on her ability to pay for college.

“I think that cuts to work study might be reasonable since it is usually such a small part of covering tuition (especially for a school like Whitman) and outside jobs are usually available,” Loftus said. “For example, I only work six hours a week, and if I were trying to make that go towards tuition I would hardly make a dent in what I owe.”

One way the Senate has proposed to help offset the decrease in SWS funding is by increasing employer match rates, which would result in an increase in funding for the program from the private sector.

According to the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board, however, increasing employer match rates might not be as beneficial as it might first seem since it could decrease employer participation in the program. Decreased participation could translate to decreased availability of jobs and decreased chance for students to participate in SWS.

Garcia believes this could have a significant impact on Whitman students receiving SWS.

“All in all, the money made from work study makes all the difference in my ability to attend college,” Garcia said.

The anonymous student voiced similar concerns.

“I’m here on financial aid that consists of Whitman scholarships, grants and other scholarships, and I’m sure many students across the state are in the same boat. If the budget is cut, an abundance of students will sink and struggle to swim,” the student said. “When it comes to families that are barely making a living and especially during this hard time those 2,000 dollars [from SWS] can be used to support a whole family instead of the education of one person.”

The final combined House and Senate budget is anticipated to be released some time next week.

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