When college students receive federal work-study awards as part of their financial aid packages, they might not expect the jobs to dramatically impede their class schedules. Yet on Georgetown’s campus — where annual attendance fees are close to $60,000 — securing a work-study job often comes at too high a cost to students’ academic ambitions.

Georgetown and some off-campus employers receive federal funding that, according to the U.S. Department of Education website, supports “part-time employment to help needy students to finance the costs of postsecondary education.” Federal funds can cover anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of a student’s work-study wage.

This should be a boon to students, but the process by which work-study employers hire can actually hinder academic life. Employers often assess applicants based on availability, meaning that students in search of jobs — which are not abundant at Georgetown to begin with — are motivated to structure their class schedules to create the largest possible chunks of free time. It is ironic that a work-study award meant to pay for education can so unreasonably get in the way of it.

There’s no question that having a job requires some sacrifice, and work-study is, of course, distinct from a direct scholarship. But students can still contribute to an employer without being required to work long hours. It may be more convenient for employers to hire students who can work multiple full shifts during the week, but that kind of mindset ignores the distinction between students and other employees in the workforce. If employers receive substantial payroll funding, it’s fair to ask that in return they do more to accommodate the unique needs of students.

Breaking shifts down to have smaller, more manageable hours and hiring more than just a few students to fill work-study positions would represent a big step toward addressing this problem. If the average shift were several hours instead of an entire afternoon, students would have an easier time holding work-study jobs while maintaining their preferred academic schedules. And while we recognize it may be more convenient for an employer to train, oversee and pay fewer students, this proposed expansion should not create an undue burden. Left unchanged, the program can undermine the very mission of work-study: to give students the ability to pursue an education.

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