By Megan Wahn

Autumn Pressley once worked part-time at the University of Georgia Bookstore, a job which required her to sometimes work on football gamedays when the store was overrun by memorabilia-seeking fans.

“You can’t even see the floor of the bookstore,” recalled Pressley. “There’s so many people.”

Pressley, a third-year Spanish major, now works in the Special Collections Library as part of the Federal Work Study program, a program she’s been part of for the past few semesters and provides her with a job that’s at a far slower pace. She prefers the Federal Work Study.

“I’ve had a better experience with Federal Work Study jobs than I had with just normal part-time jobs,” said Pressley.

Federal Work Study is a financial aid program that provides paid part-time jobs that fit cohesively with a student’s class schedule. It employs about 400 students in 70 departments at UGA.

Another such recipient of FWS is the associate dean of academic affairs at Grady College, Dr. Maria E. Len-Ríos, who worked in the personnel office and later in the psychology department of her alma mater, Macalester College.

“The goal is equity — to help students that don’t start off on the same financial footing as other students. To help them be able to get their education and just alleviate the financial burden,” Len-Ríos said.

The program was initially proposed back in 1964 with the Economic Opportunity Act, with the intended goal “to mobilize the human and financial resources of the Nation to combat poverty in the United States.”

“Everyone has different situations and faces a certain financial level. If they take on too much debt, it might hurt their future options and opportunities,” Len-Ríos said.

The accommodation of a FWS is a big selling point for the program and is why Pressley prefers it to her part-time job. With a FWS job, Pressley can work multiple times a day during her two-hour gaps in between classes, as opposed to working the five-hour shifts standard of a part-time job.

“I don’t have a [work] schedule, I just come whenever I can,” said Pressley. “It’s way more convenient.”

A 2018 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce highlighted that low-income students with jobs were more likely to have lower GPAs and less likely to graduate than their higher income peers. With a FWS, students have a quota on the total amount of hours they can work and aren’t allowed to be scheduled to work during times they should be in class, even if that class is cancelled.

“It’s just more understanding with your schedule in college. You can only work up to 20 hours a week. If your work schedule needs to change, then they’re willing to change it because they know school is first,” said Pressley.

Pressley said work study might not be the way to go for all students seeking supplemental income considering the hour constraints and that pay is only slightly higher than a regular job. 

“If they really need the money then I’d say you probably want a part time job because you could get more hours,” Pressley said. “But if you just need a little spending money and you want something that’s kind of secure, you know you’ll have it, then I’d go with Federal Work Study.”

Megan Wahn is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.  The reporting for this article was completed before the campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.