As of July 1, 2016, the minimum wage in Lexington began an incremental increase, starting at $8.20 and ending at $10.10 an hour by July 1, 2018. Due to this increase, federal work study positions and hours have been reduced on campus.
When determining where to make cuts, the Financial Aid office made sure that every student already in the program was able to keep a position. Financial Aid allowed supervisors to decide how many reductions they wanted to make in their departments as to not reduce student workers from high-need areas.
“You don’t have to work as many hours to make the same amount of money,” said Associate Vice President for Financial Aid Dave Cecil. “When the minimum wage was increased, the federal government didn’t send us more work study money.”
According to Cecil, approximately thirty work study positions were reduced out of 300 on-campus positions.
Supervisors, like Director of William T. Young Campus Center Diane Fout, have had to make accommodations for the smaller allotment of work study positions in their departments.
“Because we mainly staff work study students, we’ve been dependent on the pool of available work study students,” said Fout.
Fout expected workers to be spread thinner due to having less help, but “it’s worked to our benefit,” said Fout. Campus Center workers have been able to consolidate positions so that workers are able to be utilized at one desk.
“We put the bikes up here so we could do bike check-out much more efficiently,” said Fout, pointing to the breezeway.
Having the check-out materials in their new spot allows for workers to have easier access to them, while also allowing more visibility to students.
“We’ve had a huge increase. Students are using our services more,” reported Fout. “We’re able to do what we need to do, with fewer students.”
The only area that has not been able to be fulfilled by student workers alone is the setting up of the Campus Center gym. Now, physical plant members must be utilized to carry out these large set-ups.
However, the change in the nature of the positions came as an upset to some students. Sophomore Amber Phillips, who majors in Biology, is one student who has been vocal about her dissatisfaction with the reduction in some work study positions. In her position last year, she worked alongside Dr. Fox, assisting her with research on sparrows. She and Dr. Fox planned to continue research.
“I was very excited about it because I liked what I did, and then I got an email that was like oh, just kidding, you are in the library now,” shared Phillips. She said that she was not made aware of the changes until the end of the summer, preventing her from planning how she could organize her schedule in a way that would allow her to continue research with Dr. Fox and another student who recently graduated.
“We didn’t get to finish it,” said Phillips. “I could have this year if I would have been in the same position.”
Phillips, while not happy about the changes said, “I’m okay that I got moved, but I wish I would have known about it sooner.”
I’m okay that I got moved, but I wish I would have known about it sooner.
Despite the changes, “All students who were eligible were offered work study,” said Cecil.
In fact, there are more positions to fill for eligible students. “We have ten to fifteen specific positions that are available if students want to check with us to see if they’re eligible,” said Cecil.