Personal Experience: Work Study Wait List Sinkhole

By Abby|January 15, 2016Student Writing|

I thought I would share my personal experiences thus far with attempting to gain a work study position at PCC.  I’m attempting to gain a work study position on campus to first of all obtain more income and work experience, but a hidden benefit is that having a work study position, even if only 1 hour a week, allows you to bypass the normal rule of “You have to work 20+ hours a week” in order to qualify for SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) as a full time student.  Otherwise, students cannot qualify for SNAP even if they would otherwise meet income guidelines.  So far I haven’t gotten a work study position, but I wish that PCC’s Financial Aid department was more clear and had better procedures with what happens to students if they’re not awarded work study due to funding running out.

I’ve attended the PCC Scholarship information sessions in the past, and they always mention to get in your FAFSA as soon as possible after the start of the new year to ensure that you have the greatest possibility of obtaining Financial Aid opportunities.  So last year I submitted my “estimated” FAFSA (which you can do and then correct with the real data when you get your W2’s at a later point) 2 days after the start of the new year, and I was surprised that I didn’t receive a work study award, despite getting my FAFSA in so early.  I contacted Financial Aid, and they told me they also were surprised that I wasn’t awarded work study, as I otherwise qualify.  They said I might’ve just been “between funding cycles” when they submitted my application internally.  I took away from this that FA (Financial Aid) was guessing as to why I didn’t have work study.  I asked again about a month later about work study, and I was only told at that point about the wait list, which is surprisingly difficult to find on the Financial Aid website: http://www.pcc.edu/enroll/paying-for-college/financial-aid/work-study/waitlist.html

I still don’t quite understand how the wait list works.  From what I gather the moment you get an aid award in mypcc that doesn’t include work study, you need to go onto the wait list, but I was told this term that the waitlist is 500+ people long.  I asked if Financial Aid could show me my place on the list, and they said “No, we don’t have the ability to see that information.”  If that’s the case, then how do they know how many people are on the waitlist?  I also asked if I need to resubmit to the waitlist every term, and the Financial Aid representative said no.  I asked if you already submitted your information to the waitlist again would that nullify your previous waitlist position, and the response was, “I don’t think so.”  (which to me says I don’t know)  I asked how you know you’re awarded work study, and the Financial Aid advisor said simply, “You’re sent an email.” (with no further information about who would be emailing you)  I assume since this list “can’t be viewed” by FA staff (which I find hard to believe) that the award email is sent by a computer program….hopefully it doesn’t go into the my PCC spam filter!

I also asked that if I was already offered a job on campus that was a work study job, can I bypass the wait list?  They said no, you must have an active work study award in order to take a work study position, even if no one else applies for the position.  So, I find that rather irksome, the people that are willing to work and take a position can’t take a position that’s open if they’re on the wait list.

So the takeaway is that unless somehow you’re awarded work study at the start of the awarded term it seems almost impossible to determine how/if/when you’ll be awarded a position….if ever!  If the FA staff truly can’t view the list at all how do they know that all the people on the list are current?  Or there aren’t double, triple, or more entries for the same person clogging up the list?  Also, why aren’t you told about the wait list when you’re not awarded work study?  Is PCC actively discouraging even more people from getting on the potentially already over-inflated wait list?

I would suggest that FA re-vamp this system by:

  • Telling people that they can get on the wait list that would otherwise qualify for work study and provide the link: like I do here 
  • When placed on the wait list you’re told in your confirmation email your place in line (like 340th out of 500) and how long your position is good for (like you need to re-apply every term or this list is good for the 2016-2017 school year)
  • When placed on the wait list you can have the option to have the automated system email you when your position in line changes
  • You can check your position in the wait list line otherwise through myPCC
  • Allowing separate wait lists based on campus preference (as people typically have a “main campus”)
    • Allowing a 1 entry on the wait list per person per campus

This year I was more “lax” and submitted my FAFSA 10 days after the new year; I was also told that PCC doesn’t actually look at the data from the FAFSA till, I believe, May 2016 as they need to have time to create and test the software and systems to download and manage the new data…which I find odd, but perhaps I just don’t understand why you’d need to this again and again each year.

I hope that I can help at least some people through this article get some work study positions, or at least see that getting a work study position at PCC is pretty difficult to impossible depending on how long the actual value of the wait list is.

 

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