Some Georgetown University students say they are struggling to find federal work-study employment in the online semester, although the university says it has not cut the number of federal work-study opportunities.
After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university had to reshuffle job opportunities for students receiving financial aid through the federal work-study program. Some on-campus jobs, such as staffing campus buildings, could not be replicated online, but the virtual learning environment provided new opportunities, including becoming an instructional technology aide for online classes.
Liang Lin (NHS ’24) began her job search in early August, after the COVID-19 pandemic upended her summer work plans.
After applying to several work-study positions on HoyaWorks, the university’s employment system, and receiving no response, Lin followed up with a potential employer, only to find that the time slots offered conflicted with her class schedule. She had luck with more informal avenues.
“I found my current job through an upperclassmen advertising in the Hoya ’24 GroupMe,” Lin wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Definitely was not expecting to obtain my job in that way. Overall, the process was a tiny bit harder than expected.”
David Kim (MSB ’24) faced similar challenges in navigating the employment process through HoyaWorks. Kim expected more support from the university in his first year when it came to the work-study process.
“As a freshman, this was my first experience with federal work-study, so I thought there would be some guide work or help from the administration on how to utilize it. But after searching up how and where to apply, I realized it was even harder to get the job,” Kim said. “Although I realize we’re in a COVID-19 situation and that makes it hard obtaining any job, I do feel like there should be some type of system helping first years.”
As the semester nears its midway point, Kim still has not found a job and has yet to utilize any of his federal work-study award.
After the university reduced the number of employment opportunities for work-study students over the summer, the Georgetown University Student Association passed a resolution asking the university to increase the number of jobs available to students for the fall semester.
While students have continued to report difficulties in securing university-provided work-study employment, there has not been a decline in fall 2020 hiring, according to a university spokesperson.
“This year, due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education has allowed colleges (including Georgetown) to waive the usually required ‘employer’ matching share for federal work-study student earnings,” they wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Under this new policy, employers that hire federal work-study eligible students, such as Georgetown University, receive a 100% federal subsidy to their student worker’s earnings.”
This financial accommodation has increased Georgetown’s ability to provide part-time employment opportunities for students in the work-study program, according to the spokesperson.
“The Student Employment Office worked throughout the summer to develop as many jobs as possible for the Fall term, encouraging departments to hire continuing or new students for remote work whenever possible,” the university spokesperson said. “Postings have included jobs that allow for remote ‘teleworking’ and jobs with flexible hours for students studying outside the Eastern Standard Time zone.”
One such position created is the instructional technology aide, which, since its launch in August, has created more than 100 student teleworking opportunities for the fall semester. The ITA program pairs students with faculty members to assist with the online operations of academic courses.
Ethan Ricker (COL ’24) is currently an ITA for “American Dialects.” As an ITA, he joins each class period and helps with recording, organizing polls and breakout rooms, resolving technical issues, monitoring the chat and helping his professor with any other tasks that do not involve grading, Ricker wrote in an email to The Hoya.
“Even though I was granted federal work study as part of my financial aid package, I did not believe employment would be possible given the current circumstances,” Ricker wrote. “While the job has me doing many different things in class, it is not at all overwhelming. An added plus is that the class, as well as the professor, are part of my chosen major. When I am not needed to help with any technology issues, I find myself fascinated with the content being discussed.”
Although Lin is employed, many other students were not as lucky and are facing ongoing repercussions of the pandemic’s effect on summer employment, she said.
“Many students were not able to or were afraid to work this summer and even now, due to the ongoing pandemic,” Lin wrote. “That was the case for me. I had plans to continue working as a bubble tea barista and private tutoring however with Covid-19 going around, I did not want to risk an exposure.”