The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 2nd

Reduced hours and online operation: A new reality for UNC work-study students

<p>A peer counselor at the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid gives financial advice to an incoming transfer student. Students with work study jobs are eligible for SNAP benefits, but few UNC students use the program.&nbsp;</p>
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A peer counselor at the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid gives financial advice to an incoming transfer student. Students with work study jobs are eligible for SNAP benefits, but few UNC students use the program. 

The more than 2,400 students who were part of a federal work-study program this semester have seen their routines change as work-study positions go remote, hours are cut back and positions that cannot operate remotely stop entirely. 

But the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid wants work-study students to know that they don't have to lose this source of income due to these changes. 

So far, Rachelle Feldman, associate provost and director of the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, said more than 800 students have already received a lump sum payment from the office.

Feldman said the office will pay students a one-time, lump sum amount of what they would have made over the remainder of the year if their work-study supervisors cannot create a remote-work plan for them. 

She said the office is making sure students are not losing money due to campus closures and that students should reach out if they fear making less due to cut hours. 

“We really do care,” Feldman said. “It’s an unusual situation, but it’s still one we want to try to solve.”

Work-study students received an email on March 14 from the work-study office, following campus closures due to the pandemic. 

The email confirmed that students who are able can continue their positions remotely, as long as their employer is equipped to provide appropriate work and supervision in a remote setting.

Some work-study programs, the email acknowledged, do not work remotely. For those students who are unable to continue their work-study position remotely, the email said the University is working to provide “alternative funding” to make sure students are not losing money they planned to receive.

Reina Kinnaly is a senior exercise and sport science major employed in the Undergraduate Admissions Office. 

She said she is able to work remotely, but her hours were critically cut back — now ranging from eight to 12 hours a week.

Kinally said she has since sought out other opportunities, like babysitting, to make money — but it's been hard to find a consistent job with the recent shelter-in-place order. 

“I’m kind of in a limbo right now trying to figure out what to do,” Kinnaly said. 

Although students will still receive financial support, junior media and journalism major Jordan Mason said coronavirus has caused challenges in workflow and efficiency for those who continue their work.

Moving his work as a stewardship services assistant in the Vice Chancellor for Development's office completely online has been a slow adjustment for him, he said. 

“Whether it’s with other work-study students that I am working on a project with or my boss who I can usually ask a question by just turning around, the virus has affected how I can do that work,” Mason said. 

Mason is not the only student who feels this way. Junior media and journalism major Daniel Mulumba is an office assistant for the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History. He said that his working remotely has been difficult to navigate. 

“The communication is wonky,” Mulumba said. “I have to email my supervisors for clarification rather than being able to do things in person.”

But he said he feels lucky that his hours and pay are the same, and that his supervisor has even given him the opportunity to make up hours lost during the additional week of spring break. 

“Work-study has been very fair to students,” Mulumba said. 

The only downside, he said, is that students are now losing some experience getting first-hand work in fields they are pursuing as careers. 

In addition to adjusting to their new work situation, students interviewed said they were disappointed by the inability to see coworkers in person. 

As a senior, Kinnaly said she's most upset about not being able to finish her final semester seeing the people in her office who have become like a family. 

“It’s heartbreaking to say the least,” Kinnaly said. “I’ve spent four years in that office, and I love it. It’s my heart.”

Feldmen said the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid is working to make sure those students continue the work they care about.

“It’s really important to us at Carolina, but also in the Aid Office, that students are able to continue with the term,” Feldman said. “We want them to get as much support as possible.”


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