This is guest column written by SIU student Cody Ward.
Time is money. We have all heard this expression on multiple occasions, and for many of the student workers here on campus, we are about to fully grasp its meaning. Three hours a week is what the new 20-hour limit placed on student workers will cost me. This amount seems negligible; however, I was curious as to exactly how much money this amount of time lost each week would cost me. The answer surprised me.
I will lose a minimum of $1,038 each year. This amount does not include the hours lost over breaks, which often exceeded the new 20-hour limit. This is a substantial amount of money. It is also worth considering that I fall into the lower one-third of students who will be affected by this cut in working hours. Imagine for a moment someone told you they will be losing 9.5 hours each week (the old hourly limit on students was 29.5 hours per week) beginning next semester. This would amount to a minimum loss of $3,135 each year.
The question many of my fellow students are asking is how will they make up the difference? Like myself, many of the student workers on campus are paying their own way through their undergraduate education. The scholarships or grants we receive are often times not enough to cover the cost of education, so student employment is our best option to fund our education. Others rely on their student work earnings to cover their housing costs. Where will they get this much-needed money from? Many are going to be forced to seek off-campus employment. Off-campus employers are less inclined to be flexible with the hours of their employees. This could greatly inhibit participation in many of the activities on campus that many of us enjoy. This may also cause increased stress as they will be less likely to allow students time off during busy times of the semester.
The most shocking aspect of the change for me was simply its timing. I personally was informed of this new policy change with less than one week’s notice. Student workers who take summer courses still have many expenses. How shocking would you find it if you were notified during finals week, an extremely stressful time for all college students, that your weekly pay was going to be cut by as much as 32 percnt and you have less than one week to address this?
Many of the people I work with and around are upset by this, and I believe they have every right to be. As in any time of distress, especially those that involve the loss of money, people are searching for a scapegoat. Many are speculating as to the underlying cause of this cut. Perhaps the administration hopes that this change in student employment protocol will result in more studying and less working for student employees.
I do not, however, think our administrators are the ones to blame for this loss in time. It seems to me the timing of this notification as well as the absoluteness with which it was handed down, suggests this is a government-mandated cut. Unfortunately, this does not offer much, if any, consolation. In fact, I feel entirely helpless. Whoever ultimately handed down the decision is irrelevant. There will still be student workers who are forced to add on a second or possibly third job to make ends meet, and in the end, this will hinder their ability to reach their full potential and receive the maximum benefit from their undergraduate education.