Some students encounter challenges seeking federal work-study jobs during the pandemic

Unresponsive bosses and a lack of support from the University contribute to problems, students say

Some students encounter challenges seeking federal work-study jobs during the pandemic

Students are facing challenges finding and retaining federal work-study jobs amid the pandemic, leaving them struggling to earn money granted by their financial aid packages. 

Ali Feder, a sophomore in the School of Communication, said she has not received responses from various jobs at American University. Feder and other students also said there is a lack of support and guidance from the University when it comes to getting answers and help about overcoming problems they encounter getting entry-level FWS jobs. 

“I would like to think I'm fully qualified to work a desk job,” Feder said. 

Feder said since December 2020, she has applied to over 20 entry-level jobs. As of last month, Feder had only heard back from four employers — and the responses were rejections. 

As of February, she now has two interviews to get a FWS job. 

Feder also said she was not able to attend the virtual FWS job fair in the fall semester. Typically, there is only one fair a year, and it is the most effective way to get a FWS job, according to Feder. 

Another fair is planned for this semester, according to Julie Jones, director of employer relations at the AU Career Center. Jones said offices on campus met last month to discuss assisting students get positions; she said the fair was the main solution.

The Finding Part-time Employment Fair for Students on Feb. 11 is a job fair for the spring semester planned by the staff of the Career Center, the Office of Human Resources, the Office of Financial Aid, the Office of Campus Life and a variety of other on-campus units to deal with the issues students are facing finding a job, according to Jones. 

“This is absolutely a foundational issue for students, and so there are a lot of people working on this right now,” Jones said. “It culminated in this event.” 

Jones said the fair has opportunities for students with FWS awards and those who are looking for student wage positions. 

“Anecdotally, we've been hearing some information about students having challenges with federal work-study, which is really why we mobilized early in the semester,'' Jones said. 

She added that the Career Center is always happy to help with any issues but is there to help students build skills and prepare for future jobs. Students looking for help with their financial aid awards should direct questions to their financial aid officer and the Office of Financial Aid, she said. 

The Eagle was unable to reach the Office of Financial Aid for comment. 

Lily Yudis, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Science, said she turned to the Office of Financial Aid but said she was not helped. 

Yudis was trying to reach an unresponsive boss to confirm the job she was promised for this semester a few weeks ago. She said she liked her boss and her job and had not had problems until this semester. However, when she did not hear back from a follow-up email she sent her boss, Yudis said she decided to email the Office of Financial Aid and was frustrated by the response she got. 

“The Office of Financial Aid emailed me back and said there is nothing we can do and you should just keep emailing your boss and in our records, it shows that you only have $200 left to earn anyway,” Yudis said. 

Yudis said that it does not matter to her the amount of money she has left to earn because that money was granted to her through her FWS package.

“It doesn't matter if it was $200 or $1,000 because it's still money that could go toward groceries, public transportation and personal finances,” Yudis said. 

FWS is a federally sponsored program that allows eligible students to earn income through part-time employment organizations such as the university, local nonprofit organizations and government agencies, according to the Federal Work Study Program website. The maximum amount of money a student can earn for an academic year is $2,000 and students earn $15.20 an hour. 

Although many students like Feder and Yudis encountered problems with their FWS, some students like Kyla Davidson, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said they had an easier time getting a FWS job this semester. 

Davidson said she applied for a job this semester and got an interview for that job within a week, a much smoother process than Feder experienced. 

“I applied to multiple federal work-study jobs because those jobs are specifically for students with the federal work-study,” Feder said. “I think that it is ridiculous that I still have not gotten a job.”

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle

Would you like to support our work? Donate here to The Eagle Innovation Fund.