Despite last week’s statement from the University Office of Financial Aid that the University would have to completely slash students’ work-study for the spring and summer terms, the University announced yesterday that it would dip into its pockets to cover the costs and restore the program.
The costs, estimated to be about $185,000, will most likely come out of the University’s emergency funds, which are earmarked for unforeseen circumstances.
“At a place this big, we can find the resources to come up with the money,” Provost Paul Courant said.
Originally, the University said that it would have to eliminate its support to work-study students during the spring and summer terms for a variety of different reasons. One of the reasons was a cut of nearly half a million dollars from the federal work-study program. The cut only left $4.2 million for the three University campuses to divvy up.
“It’s very unfortunate that the federal government cut (the funding),” University President Mary Sue Coleman said.
Combined with the federal cuts, three other factors — a larger-than-usual-freshman class, the Flint campus expending a large amount of the money and many students working more hours than expected — contributed to the lack of funds available for spring/summer work-study.
Last Thursday’s news that the University would not be able to offer work-study came as a surprise to most top-level University administrators, including Courant and Coleman.
“I think that the decision to suspend it was made prematurely, and as soon as we considered the issue we realized what needed to be done,” Courant said.
Coleman attributed the mishap to a glitch in communication.
“We’re working to resolve that glitch,” she added.
Courant said that the provost’s office was not informed of the decision to cut the funds.
“In retrospect, some things would have been better if (the financial aid office) had talked to us,” he said.
Lester Monts, associate provost for academic affairs, said the University was caught offguard by the factors, which led to the lack of support for the work-study programs.
The decision to restore the funds came to the relief of students like LSA freshman Thane Wolcott, who is using work-study funds to work in the University Hospital this spring and summer as a plastic surgery researcher. Without work-study, he would have done the research for credit but not money, forcing him to hold another job while taking a total of 12 additional credits.
Whether he was allotted work-study may have also determined whether he was able to stay in Ann Arbor over the summer, Wolcott said.
“If they did not come through, it would have been extremely difficult,” he said.
Courant said the two-fold importance of work-study prompted the University to make sure it offered the funds.
“People work for their own support and that’s entirely appropriate,” he said. “There is a long tradition of that in higher education. It goes back to Arthur Miller and before.”
The second reason Courant cited is that students have the opportunity to see how the University works in a more comprehensive way through financial aid.
“It’s a great mechanism to make students more aware of what really goes on here,” Courant said.