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New Opportunities, Programs Expand Ranks of Work Study

By Shan Riku

STAFF REPORTER

The MIT federal work study program has improved this year, after a lack of student participation forced MIT to return some funds to the federal government two years ago.

In the past semester, MIT already had 224 Federal Work Study students, while it had just 215 in the 2002-2003 school year and just 102 in 2001-2002.

“What we’ve done is focus heavily on trying to create new opportunities for all eligible students,” said Jane D. Smith, student employment director for the Student Services Center. “We created community service opportunities for those students who have federal work study in their financial aid packages.”

Because of low numbers in the community service component of its work study program, MIT had to forfeit about $75,000, The Boston Globe reported last February. The federal government requires that seven percent of work study funds be spent on community service work. At the time, MIT was only spending about two percent on such jobs.

Focus shifts to summer programs

Smith said that not many students take part in federal work-study because of a lack of time. “We’ve learned that students oftentimes don’t have as much time to work off campus,” Smith said. “We are focusing more on summer programs, when students have more time.”

Incoming freshmen who have financial aid and interest in community service are allowed to start their federal work-study during the summer before they attend MIT. “We allowed prefrosh to work at non-profit organizations in their hometown,” Smith said.

“We’ve also offered the same opportunity to graduate students who have been awarded work study funds to work at non-profit organizations during the term, and also during the summer,” Smith said. “We didn’t have graduate students [in the program] several years ago. Now, we do.”

Among the new opportunities for work study is the Media and Technology Charter High School program. Last year, MIT students began to tutor students at the Media and Technology High School, or MATCH, in Brookline during the summer.

Smith said 40 MIT students and 60 MATCH school students participated in this program last summer. MIT is hoping to involve 60 students in the coming summer, Smith said.

PSC creates new programs

The Public Service Center has created two programs, ReachOut and Science Projects at MIT, that have opened up work study opportunities as well as encouraged students to participate in community service.

“While work study is a program of Student Financial Services, we try to do all we can to help with the community service aspect of work-study,” said Sally Susnowitz, assistant dean and director of the Public Service Center .

Although both programs are open to volunteers, most participants get paid by the federal work-study grant, because “we mainly publicize it as a work study job,” Susnowitz said. “Besides, it’s very difficult for MIT students to be able to afford that time commitment.”

The PSC is welcome to having federal work study students as community service participants, Susnowitz said.

“If students cannot afford the time because they have to work, we are happy to have them work in community service,” Susnowitz said. “We are very interested in having everybody participating in community service.”