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College’s work award does not pay the bills

It is no secret that higher education is expensive and St. Olaf is by no means a cheap option. With that said, students are able to have work study jobs to relieve the cost of attending college. But, do students’ work awards at St. Olaf actually help with paying for college? In short, no.

The $2,300 work award cap per year restricts students from actually making an impact on their student debt. While $2,300 is better than nothing, this amount does not greatly contribute to any college savings or college debt reduction. Many changes need to be made to the work award at St. Olaf.

“It’s difficult to view one’s work award amount as helpful if ti can’t even cover one-fourth of the cost of living on campus.” – Mickaylie Bade ’20

Of the many problems with St. Olaf’s work award, the most prominent are that students do not get enough hours, there are not enough jobs on campus, wages are far too low and the cost of attending St. Olaf continues to increase – the work award limit should as well.

One of the biggest problems with student jobs is that students can never get enough hours. If students can make $2,300 per school year, that means they will be working roughly seven hours a week. However,   most jobs on campus cannot guarantee students seven hours of work a week. Students must then either try to find a second job or pray they can pick up enough sub shifts to get closer to their limit. This leaves students coming up short of their work award limit, simply because they cannot find enough hours.

St. Olaf needs to offer more job opportunities to students. If there were more jobs on campus, students would be able to reach their work award limit. Furthermore, students would be able to find more jobs that fit with their areas of expertise and interest. For example, working at the Cage provides few skills needed to be a doctor, but sometimes that is the only job students can find on campus.

Another solution to the problem above is increasing student wages. Students typically make $9.50 an hour for most jobs and $9.75 for specialized jobs. If the wages were increased, students would be able to work less hours — solving the problem of St. Olaf not having enough hours for students to work, while still making it closer to their work award amount. In addition, many jobs off-campus pay more than $9.50 an hour. Increasing student wages would make on-campus wages comparable to those offered outside of St. Olaf’s boundaries.

Another option for students would be to find off-campus jobs. Unfortunately, there are many problems with this solution. First of all, most St. Olaf students do not have a car on campus which means students would either need to walk or ride the bus to their jobs. However, depending on the distance, walking is not feasible (especially in winter) and the bus is unreliable. Getting to an off-campus job would be a stressful feat for students.

Since working off-campus is not possible for most students, let’s return to jobs and work awards. There should not be a limit on how much students can make. If students are available to work and want to work, they should be able to do so.

The only reason St. Olaf should restrict student work is if the student is failing a class due to working too much. Otherwise, students should be able to determine how much they can and want to work. One problem with this solution is that the College would need to provide more jobs, more hours and more money.

With the continuously rising cost of tuition, the work award amount should also increase. Work awards should help pay for college and to do that, the work award cap amount needs to increase as tuition does. Right now, the work award amount does not even cover a fourth of the cost of room and board. It’s difficult to view one’s work award amount as helpful if it can’t even cover one-fourth of the cost of living on campus.

Clearly, there are many problems with St. Olaf’s work award. I am not an economics major who could fix this problem, nor do I even know where I would start to solve this problem, but I do know there need to be changes in St. Olaf’s student work department. Students should be able to have more job opportunities and be guaranteed they will have enough hours to fulfill their work award. Furthermore, a student’s work award amount should help pay for college, which $2,300 does not do.

Mickaylie Bade ’20 ( is from Hutchinson, Minn. Her major is English.

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