RIC student employment prevails during tough times

RIC student Meghan Haggerty, left, meets with Linda Kent Davis.
Despite the economic troubles that have taken their toll on the nation this year, student employment at Rhode Island College hasn’t undergone any dramatic changes or reductions as of yet. In fact, it seems that more students are exploring the wide range of work opportunities available to them through RIC’s Career Development Center. One area that has become popular is the Federal Work Study program, which employs students through allocated federal funds as part of their financial aid packages.

According to Linda Kent Davis, director of the Career Development Center, the school year opened with a notable influx of work-study recipients accepting their awards. “There was a real demand, maybe because of the economic times. It almost seems like we were starting to run out of positions on-campus that were available for work-study,” she said. Not only do awarded students have a choice between on or off campus positions, work-study is fully covered by the government in most cases.

“For on-campus positions, work-study covers everything. For off-campus positions, non-profits pay a small portion of the student salary,” said Kent Davis. Those who are either enrolled in a summer course or expect to be a full time student in the fall can also use work-study to obtain summer work experience on-campus.

Yet, the increase in award acceptances doesn’t change the fact that students are unable to request the resource. Work-study is only accessible through financial aid package offers, as James Hanbury, director of Financial Aid at RIC clarified. In addition, Hanbury explained that it is “sometimes possible to substitute additional loan aid for work-study if a student requests it, [but] the substitution does not work the other way.”

On the other hand, a student who may suddenly have a drastic change in income has a great chance of being considered for work-study during the financial aid readjustment process. In this case, Hanbury advises students to “contact the financial aid office and request an appointment with a counselor” so the proper updates can be made on a student’s need analysis and reported FAFSA information. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is filed by students on a yearly basis to determine their aid eligibility.

“When we do adjust the need analysis, it typically results in the student being awarded additional financial aid, including work-study, if that is appropriate for the student’s financial situation,” he said. Another option for students seeking gainful on-campus employment is department-funded positions. These jobs are open to those who aren’t work-study recipients and who may have useful skills to contribute to a particular area like tutoring or technology support, Kent Davis explained.

Linda Kent Davis
Like work-study, department funded jobs seem to be greatly sought after right now. “Students really want to know the value of working on campus. It’s easy, they don’t have to commute, and they can get a few hours in around the edges in terms of class times,” said Kent Davis. Although there are a number of departments that would like to hire student workers, there are several others whose funds were eliminated by the recent budget cuts in the state, another possible reason why work study recipients are taking on their awards now more than ever.

Aside from being convenient, on campus work-study and department funded jobs can provide other benefits. “There is research that talks about how students who work on-campus become more engaged in the whole academic community. Subsequently, the retention of those students is higher because they are connected to other people on campus,” said Kent Davis. Most of all, these jobs can give students a chance to explore a particular career path that they may want to get into.

One example is the Office of Human Resources at RIC, which hired a larger amount of students than usual this year, as Kent Davis recalled. For those with an interest in pursuing a career in human resources after finishing school, working in this department on campus can generate valuable experience in the field to strengthen a resume. It can also help a student determine if this is the type of work he or she wants to pursue. “Students have a chance to clarify whether or not they have an interest,” said Kent Davis.

Lastly, the Career Development Center lists general off-campus jobs that are posted by employers. The listings range from childcare to non-profit organizational work, and can fall into job or internship categories. Overall, Kent Davis encourages students to look into campus employment as a viable option, one that usually thrives at the beginning of each school year.

“In truth, most of the positions are right for and during the beginning of the semester and the heavier hiring happens in the fall because a lot of students then tend to keep their jobs into the next semester,” she said.