University News

Raking it in? Over half of undergrads work for pay

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Looks like Spring Weekend artist Snoop Dogg isn’t the only one with his mind on his money and his money on his mind.

Over half of Brown students — 56 percent — pulled in their own cash-money by working for pay this semester, according to last month’s Herald poll. Freshmen were less likely to work than members of the older classes — 37 percent of freshmen reported working as opposed to 63 percent of non-freshmen.

Forty-two percent of students responded that they hadn’t worked for pay, while 10 percent reported working in excess of 15 hours per week.

Among employed students, a large number are working on campus. About 43 percent of all students work on campus during the academic year, according to data provided by the Office of Financial Aid. However, usually only about 25 percent of students are working at any given time, according to the data.

Why students work, what they do and where varies. Some work to pay off the work-study component of a financial aid package, while others just want a little extra pocket money. Some shelve books in the Rockefeller Library basement, others hem costumes for the theater department and some even take off all their clothes for art classes.

Work it out
On-campus student employment has stayed relatively steady for the past decade, according to Tracy Frisone, senior assistant director at the Office of Financial Aid. But she said there has been a “slight uptick” in employment numbers during the past two academic years, which she attributed in part to the current economic climate.

“There are certainly more students seeking employment,” she said, cautioning that it is not a particularly large increase.

Those who are working are not necessarily working more hours, she said.
An average work week for an on-campus student employee is between eight and 10 hours, a rate that has remained steady for the past several years, according to Director of Financial Aid James Tilton. This is the target amount of hours that his department hopes students will work, he said.

“We really don’t want them to work, if we can help it, more than 10,” he added.
Roughly 41 percent of all students received need-based financial aid from the University for this academic year, according to Tilton. There is a work-study expectation, partially funded by the federal government, included in all financial aid packages, he said. An additional 100 students qualified for federal work-study but not need-based scholarships, Frisone wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

The University’s new financial aid initiatives, begun last year, have given families more options for tuition payment, according to Tilton.

Financial aid options might help explain why fewer freshmen are working. Beginning with the class of 2007, Brown stopped requiring first-years to work, giving them the option of taking out loans. As of last year, students on full financial aid receive a University Work Scholarship for their first year in lieu of their work-study expectation. Students receiving partial aid or who otherwise qualify for work-study do not receive this scholarship.

But students are not required to work on campus to fulfill this requirement. “At least 40 percent of the students who receive work-study in their financial aid don’t work (an on-campus job),” Frisone said. They may instead choose to rely on outside scholarships, summer savings, off-campus jobs or loans, she added.

Freshmen might also choose to wait to begin working until they feel comfortable and adjusted to Brown, according to Frisone. 

Money munchies
Brown Dining Services is the largest on-campus employer, with a current employee count of roughly 300 students, according to Ann Hoffman, Dining Services’ director of administration. That number does not include the student groups who work group shifts at satellite eateries in order to raise money for their organization.

Hoffman said she has noticed a recent increase in student demand for employment, which is “very much consistent with the downturn in the economy.”

This fall “was the first time BuDS had a waitlist in seven or eight years,” said BuDS General Manager Melanie Masarin ’12.

But anecdotally, Hoffman said she finds students working fewer hours than they used to, which she attributed in part to a change in the pay-raise structure several years ago. BuDS currently requires workers to work a minimum of eight hours per week, but more people have been requesting exceptions, Hoffman said. The department has considered changing the policy and will continue to examine the issue, but “if you go too low, you risk losing the commitment and level of engagement,” she said.

Masarin has a more involved job than most. She generally works about 15–20 hours a week, though that number can climb to 25 during busy periods, she said. Masarin, an international student, started working for BuDS in part because she wasn’t legally allowed to work off campus her freshman year, she said.

The large time commitment has helped her learn to organize her time better, she said. Though there are sacrifices — “it comes in conflict with my sleep more than my schoolwork,” she added.

“We’re unique in the amount of responsibility we place in students,” Hoffman said.
Other large on-campus employers include the Department of Athletics and the divisions of engineering and biology and medicine, Frisone said.

Cash money
On-campus minimum wage is $8.20, which is above both federal and state minimum wage, Tilton said. But the majority of students — 95 percent — are making more than that, he said. Brown’s student salaries are generally comparable to other urban institutions, Tilton added.

Among those working oncampus, average yearly earnings are roughly $1,500, according to Frisone. The level of pay usually correlates to the level of skill and responsibility involved, she said, adding that many of the higher-paid jobs tend to involve web development.

The diversity of pay and employment type is apparent on the Student Employment Web site, which includes both on-campus and off-campus job listings. On Monday, salaries offered in the on-campus division ranged from the minimum of $8.20 per hour, for a Third World Center program coordination position, to a maximum of $30 per hour, for an instructor in pilates, yoga and aerobics.

However, “working for pay” at Brown might not even entail a set hourly wage.
Baxter DiFabrizio ’13 hasn’t worked a job this year, in part because he doesn’t want the “rigidity” of a steady work schedule. But he has earned some money by participating in several psychology and Brown University Social Science Experimental Laboratory experiments, which have more flexible schedules.

BUSSEL, which is run by the department of economics, runs experiments in which the amount of money students earn depends in part on the decisions that they and other students make during the course of the experiment. In some cases, students can walk away with $40 cash after little over an hour. In some, they might walk away with nothing.
DiFabrizio’s motivation to participate depends on the department. “With psychology, it’s the experiment. With econ, it’s definitely the money,” said the intended psychology concentrator.

Beyond Brown
Some students turn to multiple jobs to bolster their paychecks.

Michelle Norworth ’10 started working at Brown the second semester of her sophomore year, checking IDs at Meehan Auditorium. After working as a part-time transcriptionist for an off-campus firm last summer, she continued that job — whose hours can vary from zero–10 hours a week — while returning to her shifts as BuDS cart worker. This semester, she has worked up to 30 hours in one week when she had a full schedule for both jobs, bu
t otherwise works 20–25 hours a week, she said.

Last week, Norworth began an additional on-campus job. She said this full work schedule is only possible because she is a senior enrolled in three easy classes who already has a job for next year — and she isn’t writing a thesis.

Other students choose to work solely off campus. Rebecca Smith ’12 began working at Blue State Coffee last month in large part because she liked the atmosphere and already spent a good deal of time there — something she hasn’t found on campus, she said.

Many of the off-campus employers listed on the student employment Web site are parents looking for babysitters. Providence resident David Shikiar wanted a college student babysitter because students are young, ambitious and curious “about the wider world,” he said.

Takin’ care of business
But Kayla Urquidi ’11, who works at the Student Activities Office, prefers the convenience of an on-campus job location, selecting hours that with the breaks between her classes, she said. She also appreciates that the University employers are understanding of a student’s schedule, letting her leave early for class and not expecting her to work during vacations.

When it comes to student jobs, some — like nude modeling — are more exotic than most.
Daniel Stupar, adjunct lecturer in Visual Art, coordinates the hiring of nude models for visual arts classes. He was very surprised with the volume of applications he received after the job was posted in Morning Mail — about 40 applications for only eight to 10 spots, he said. He sought models with sports, yoga, or martial experience to ensure that they had the stamina to hold poses for up to 20 minutes.

While some might worry it would be awkward to model for fellow students, Stupar said that those applying knew what they were signing up for, and were “really casual about it.”
Still, he added, “It’s probably one of the strangest jobs you could have at Brown.”

The Herald poll was conducted on March 22 and 23 and has a 3.5 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. A total of 714 Brown undergraduates completed the poll, which The Herald administered as a written questionnaire to students in the lobby of J. Walter Wilson during the day and in the Sciences Library at night. For the sample of just freshmen, the margin of error is 6.8 percent. For the sample of non-freshmen, the margin of error is 4.0 percent.