More first years were admitted to St. Olaf last year than ever before, making it difficult for students to complete their awards at the limited number of campus jobs. This is a problem for many, since St. Olaf tuition goes up significantly every year and many students can barely afford to attend the college as is.
Not completing the work award often creates financial hardships because the student must come up with the remaining money to pay off tuition.
The full work award is crucial to many low-income families and is often the deciding factor for whether or not some students can continue to pay tuition, room and board. Some students who voiced complaints last year about the lack of work study hours transferred due to lack of funds.
One of the first things that the student work administrator used to say is that the student is responsible for getting their full work award and making sure that they have enough hours. I dont hear them say that anymore. The college is no longer able to guarantee that students will get their full award or any award at all and therein lies the problem.
How can the college financial administrators dupe students into believing that they will get (for example) $2,000 of work award money deducted from their tuition? They dont put a cautionary note on the Financial Aid forum reading, Warning: student aid isnt guaranteed; individual award may vary by as much as half the listed amount.
Let me recap the situation: tuition has gone up; more students attend; cuts have been made and work study has been cut. Where has all the money gone? The money could not be put toward a more beneficial venture than to help low-income kids attend this fine institution.
Since it is no longer the students responsibility to complete the work award due to extenuating circumstances, it thus falls to the administration, the people who admitted the students whose needs they cant fill, to help students make ends meet. So the question is on the table, and Id like to know: What are they going to do?
The question is both a practical and an ethical one. Practically, should St. Olaf stop admitting record-breaking numbers of first years, thus allowing the students that are here to fulfill their award?
Ethically, should St. Olaf tell students point blank that they will probably not be able to fulfill their work award and not to rely on that money? And on an even more controversial note (which was proposed last year by some higher-up decision makers), should St. Olaf stop allowing as many low-income kids, thus eliminating the need for work award?
It is common knowledge that federal aid cuts have affected schools all over the nation, and higher education has probably been hit hardest. In this time of economic unrest and record college attendance, there is no money to add new classes and faculty to accommodate the increasing number of students, even though the college years are when families need money the most.
The best and fairest thing to be done is to increase the standards for admission, thus shrinking the total number of incoming first years. The California legislature has adopted an enrollment freeze for the University of California and California State University, and will admit no new money for growth. As much as I hate to say it, I believe that policy needs to be instituted at St. Olaf. Hey, its either that or put the new science center plans on hold and use that money to supplement the work award fund. And maybe pigs will fly.