Due to an unusually high number of returning students who did not complete a student employment contract in the spring and the State of Ohio’s minimum wage increase this January, some Wittenberg students have had to deal with hourly cuts from their on-campus jobs.
According to Maureen Massaro, Associate Vice President of Human Resources, there were over 250 returning students who were eligible for a work award who did not submit a work contract in the spring. Because this is a higher number than in the past, a cap of $2,000 for the year (eight hours per week) was placed on those students in order to ensure the Student Employment Budget could cover all the students with a work award if these students turned in a contract later in the year.
“Students who are awarded a work award have a responsibility to secure a job, submit a contract each spring and submit a timecard each month,” Massaro said. “Our ability to manage, plan and budget is based on the contracts and, in part, the time cards. Students who do not submit a contract or time card run the risk of receiving a lower work award or losing their work award altogether.”
However, students who did turn in their student work contracts may also lose hours. With the State of Ohio’s minimum wage being raised to $7.70 per hour, each department was asked to monitor their budgets for student employment. This may cause a student’s work hours to be cut an hour or two each week, but Massaro said that with the raise of minimum wage, the students will earn just as much as if they worked the extra hours.
“The raise in minimum wage was an unexpected $90,000 impact to the institution’s budget,” Massaro said. “However, students should be able to earn the same pay for less hours worked.”
Though the number of student contracts and the Student Employment Budget are all assessed each year in order to determine work awards, the change, which Massaro called a “change based on the change in circumstances,” has some student workers wondering why their paychecks were the cuts on campus.
“I understand what and why this needs to be done,” Alissa Wachman, Senior English major and a Thomas Library Student Manager, said. “But I think there are other things this University could cut back on before saving money by firing students. Look around our campus. Many things are luxuries.”
But Massaro said that the adjusted hours are not unusual for student work awards.
“An average work award of 8 – 12 hours per week for new students is fairly common at institutions across the country,” Massaro said.
According to Massaro, it became evident in early September that an adjustment to work awards would need to be made. The administrative heads of the Budget, Financial Aid, Enrollment Management, and Institutional Research offices recommended these changes to the President and Senior Staff, who approved the recommendation in mid-September. Because the decision was not made until after the semester began, students were often not notified of these changes until after they had began working.
“If this issue continues, I believe it’s something that the University should address at the beginning of every semester,” Emily Kula, a Senior Dance major and Office Aid for both The Wittenberg Fund and the Theatre and Dance Department. “I found out about this half way through both the semester and my work grant. If they had said something to me sooner, I would have been able to re-evaluate my hours for the year.”
As of now, all students who are employed by the University have to adhere to the changes. This includes students who do not receive a need-based award but are still employed by the University. Also not exempt are students who work as Student Managers and Math Workshop, Foreign Language Learning Center, Oral Communication Center, and Writing Center tutors.
Though Massaro said they cannot change these adjustments unilaterally, these students, as well as all student workers who are worried about their work award, should communicate with the department in which they work. If a department has a budget that can cover more student work hours, the department can request a work award increase for any upper-class student.
“Support of the academic program is the University’s highest priority and we will continue to insure that adequate services and support are provided to the student body,” Massaro, in reference to the campus resources and centers, said. “As always, department heads will need to determine the best way to deliver those services.”
Also, Massaro encouraged students who have special circumstances to contact the student Employment Office.
“Students are an important component of Wittenberg’s work force,” Massaro said. “The University and students alike enjoy benefits from the Student Employment program and we do not want to jeopardize that.”
(Maggie McKune / email@example.com)