Survey reveals that many students on work study cannot find employment: College Government and Student Financial Services aim to increase accessibility of jobs

By KILY WONG ’16

Staff Writer

Increased student concerns about the availability of jobs on campus, particularly for students on work-study, have led to a concerted effort on the part of College Government (CG) to collect data that will later be presented to the college administration.

Students who apply for on-campus jobs through the Student Employment website often wait as long as a month before hearing back from potential employers. The results of a student employment survey released by CG on Oct. 22 suggest that many students on work-study cannot obtain jobs at Wellesley.

“Not all students who are on federal work-study have jobs, and that’s including seniors, who have been here for four years,” Senator Carey Cabrera ’16 said. She also stated that an overwhelming number of unemployed students indicated that they want jobs in the survey.

The 2013 Enrolled Student Survey administered by the College in April showed that about 64 percent of students worked for pay during the last academic year. The results of the Student Employment Survey are fairly consistent with those numbers.

The Student Employment Survey garnered a total of 420 responses, representing 15 percent of the Wellesley student body. The survey found that many students on work-study were without jobs, and even students with jobs felt that they were not earning enough money to cover their expenses.

Additionally, students were dissatisfied with the overall process of applying to open positions through the Wellesley Financial Services site. The survey yielded a less than perfect correlation between the number of jobs students applied for and number of responses from employees. The results supported the remarks made by students regarding the lack of responsiveness from employers after applying.

According to Cabrera, the committee plans to hold an open Senate meeting with students and administrators some time in November. She hopes the forum will allow students and College administrators to speak openly about employment concerns.

The Student Employment Committee aims to increase transparency between employers and students, educate first years about the hiring process both before and during orientation, explain to students that federal work study and Wellesley work study programs do not guarantee job placement, make wages more competitive and help meet low-income students’ needs.

As a Quest Scholar, Cabrera formed the committee because she has a personal stake in the accessibility of jobs on campus. Reflecting back on her own difficulties with finding on-campus employment, she hopes to help bring more clarity to both administrators and students about the best way to improve students’ job searches.

When many students first arrive on campus, they feel they do not have sufficient information about employment. The Student Employment Survey showed that the employment rate for first-years was much lower than employment rates in other class years. This may be the result of a gap in knowledge about the employment channels at Wellesley.

Elizabeth Murillo ’16 admitted that when she first came to campus, she was unsure how to find a job.

“My first job experience was hectic. I didn’t know how to start or where to look, and coming from a low income family, I needed to find some type of work fast,” she said.  “There were other students already getting hired around campus, and I was frustrated.”

Often perseverance is key in landing an on-campus job. Jenny Chen ’16 admitted that it was only after she applied to at least 15 jobs and heard back from three of them this year that she landed jobs at the Help Desk and the campus bookstore.

“You can’t rely solely on the employment page,” she said. “Some employers were hiring, but you had to ask in person to even know about the openings.”

A number of on-campus employers give priority to students with work-study during the hiring process so long as they have the necessary job skills.

Copy Services Manager Vicki Mutascio revealed that she almost exclusively hires first years and sophomores. In preparation for the new school year, Mutascio sends out information about the job openings along with the orientation packet.

“All applicants who meet the job needs and are first years will get an interview,” she said. “Once I have talked to first years and hired those who want to commit to the work, I will talk to the sophomore applicants and may hire some of them as well.”

However, finding an on-campus job may still be difficult. Positions tend to fill up quickly, before classes even begin. Recently, tight budgets have increased the competitiveness of certain jobs even further. This year, the Art Library cut the number of student workers hired for morning shifts.

“Budgets are tight and that reality will not change in the near future,” Mutascio said.

Director of Student Financial Services Scott Juedes stated that he had not been aware of any recent complaints filed by students regarding a lack of on-campus employment. He pointed out that there are some students with multiple on-campus jobs.

Juedes explained that all students on financial aid, including international students, receive some form of work study as a part of their financial aid award packages. At least 960 students have received checks and earned money this year through on-campus work-study. Juedes is currently working with the payroll office to calculate the actual figure, which is estimated to be higher, as it will reflect students with on- or off-campus employment as well as student volunteers who get paid to perform community service.

Still, he agreed that the student employment system at Wellesley is far from perfect, which is why the system is currently under review.

“We recognize that perhaps it is not the best system for employers or students,” Juedes said of the student employment website.

Originally, the site was set up so that employers could directly add and remove job postings. While the site is supposed to be efficient for employers and applicants, students have complained that employers often don’t get back to them.

“I applied for about 10 jobs through the student employment website, and I only received replies from the Davis Museum and Jewett,” Anne Shen ’17 said.

Student Financial Services is currently working to make the employment application process more centralized, responsive and transparent.

”I would like to work with College Government to understand the disconnect so that they may help us design a better work-study program,” Juedes said.

First years, as well as upperclasswomen, also want more clarity regarding the meaning of work-study as well as the overall application process.

Many students feel that while the College supports the admission of lower-income students, it does not help them meet tuition needs.

“I’m disappointed, to be honest,” Shen said of the work-study program. “My financial aid package was a very important factor for my decision to come to Wellesley. I was under the impression that as long as I am willing to work, I will have access to the money the federal government has provided for work-study.”

Prior to CG’s effort to collect information about student employment, the College had already started to provide more information for first years regarding on-campus employment. Juedes worked with the orientation team this year to host three events geared toward educating first years about the application process and paperwork. According to Juedes, the workshops were well attended.

Having received much positive feedback regarding the workshops, he hopes to expand the programs. The office is currently considering other ways for the administration to convey employment information to students.

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