Each fiscal year, the MHESO is required to submit an estimation of their budget to the Minnesota State Legislature for approval of funding for State Grants, work study and financial aid. For the 2002 Fiscal Year, the budget was underestimated at $108.5 million when actual spending will be closer to $125.5 million. In order to make up the vast difference, money was taken from the child care grant funds, and the entire work study allocation was wiped out statewide.
Kathy Ruby, St. Olaf director of financial aid, reported that students at St. Olaf earned $1.9 million in work study last year, paid for by federal, state, and institutional funds. With the elimination of state funding this year, St. Olaf lost $350,000 in work study funding. Despite this major loss, St. Olaf has not had to make any program changes or budget cuts due to a contingency plan developed over past years for cases of emergency funding. Any problems we are having right now, Ruby said, are due to the higher enrollment this year. Too many students are chasing too few jobs.
However, St. Olafs contingency plan is only sufficient to cover one years losses and if the work study program is not restored next year, budget cuts across campus will have to be considered to make up for the loss.
In addition to the elimination of work-study funding, many schools have increased their tuition. St. Olafs comprehensive fee (tuition, room, and board) has risen from $21,320 in 1998-1999 to $26,950 for the current 2002-2003 year, an increase of $5,600 over the past five years.
According to Ruby, the tuition increases have not been an issue in terms of the number of lower-income families and admissions.
The work-study program at St. Olaf operates on a need basis as determined by financial aid packages, not level of income. Priority is given to need-based work-study, which is federally and state funded; however, St. Olaf tries to provide work-study for any student who wants to work which, if not need-based, is funded by the institution.
Though there has been a shortage of work hours for need-based recipients this year, neither the work-study funding cuts nor the increases in tuition have affected the number of students who currently have work-study awards. Ruby estimated that about 1,800 to 1,900 students work on campus this year.