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Student Jobs Provide Varied Opportunities

January 05, 2012

Student employment is the often overlooked component of Angelo State University’s financial aid program, which helps ASU students graduate with one of the lowest debt burdens among regional universities in the United States.

Statistics provided for the 2010-11 academic year by Angie Wright, ASU associate vice president for finance and administration, show that 1,180 students worked some 438,394 hours and received $4,094,248 in wages for their work.  That amount accounts for about 15 percent of all salaries and wages paid by ASU during the last fiscal year. 

“Too often,” said ASU President Joseph C. Rallo, “we fail to recognize the role of student jobs in augmenting our strong scholarship programs and reducing the amount of loans many students have to take out to pay for their education.  The bottom line is that all we do for our students to help cover their cost of college helps their bottom line when they graduate.” 

According to U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges for 2012, ASU graduates had the fourth lowest debt – $10,712 – among regional universities in the 15 western states.  Only nine regional universities nationally had lower debt burdens for graduates than did Angelo State.  On top of that, fewer than half of ASU graduates – 43 percent – had debt upon completing their degrees.  That was the sixth lowest percentage among regional universities in all 50 states. 

“Our total financial aid opportunities stack up nicely against our peer institutions nationally,” Rallo said. 

In addition to student jobs, various scholarship opportunities, headed by ASU’s Carr Scholarship Program, and numerous federal loan and work study programs provide other options for students to cover the cost of an education. 

Under the federal work study allocation, ASU must use approximately 7 percent of $212,000 awarded annually by the Department of Education to pay wages for math and reading tutors at area elementary schools, said Michelle Bennett, ASU’s director of financial aid.  The balance of the work study allocation plus an additional $49,000 in state funds can be used to cover 75 percent of the wages for students who qualify for federal assistance.  The university picks up the remaining 25 percent of the student wages.

The majority of student wages, though, are paid through the regular ASU budget at an average wage of $9.34 per hour, according to Kurtis Neal, director of human resources at ASU. 

While campus employment can bring in revenue and enhance the résumé for students, Neal said it also helps the university. 

“Student employees contribute an immense amount of added value to the final work product at Angelo State University,” he said.  “Almost every department employs student employees and these employees contribute a great deal to the operations of the university.” 

“We employ students from the ranch to the police department,” Neal continued.  “Students work for the Ram Page and are responsible for the campus-wide recycling effort.  The range of diversity in the type of work that our campus is involved in is amazing, and the type of student employment that is available reflects that diversity.” 

Just as the university would not exist without students, neither could it do its work without student employees. 

“Whether they are enhancing the customer service of a department, performing a service that is shared throughout the university or simply assigned with basic clerical duties, the student employees are very important to our departments and the university,” Neal said. 

Besides the wages, the jobs also offer some major benefits to the students, both in the short term – exemption from paying social security, thus increasing take-home pay – and in the long term – a head start on their careers. 

“For the most part, student employment is geared around the educational experience,” Neal said.  “Departments are willing to develop schedules that fit within or around the class schedules of the student workers.  For those students who live on campus, the work environment is convenient and traditionally relaxed.” 

“Additionally, work experience is always better than no experience, and related experience for the chosen career field is truly valuable,” he said.  “With the number of student positions available and the plethora of opportunities on campus, a student worker can likely find a position that provides them with work experience pertinent to their field.  Student employees can progress into graduate assistants or research assistants as well, or perhaps even into a teaching assistant role. 

There also are numerous situations where a student employee progressed and was eventually hired as a permanent ASU staff or faculty member. 

“Those students who are willing to work and develop and prove themselves essentially create an opportunity for potential employment immediately following graduation,” Neal said.

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