Exploring the Practicalities of Work-Study, Campus Jobs, and Financial Aid Opportunities
Learning Hub Ambassador and Film and Television BFA Jack shares how you can find on campus jobs.Feb 23, 2024
The Learning Resources Center (LRC) and Learning Hub aren’t complete without the hard work of student employees. From greeting visitors at the front desk to meeting with a student to discuss Chemistry, the LRC thrives because of the dedication of our student workers. This campus couldn’t provide the exceptional services to the rest of the CU Denver student body without the help of our part-time student employees and the federal work-study program that helps them find meaningful jobs. Learning Hub Ambassador and Film and Television BFA Jack shares helpful information about the work-study program and how you can find on-campus jobs. He also dives into how he found his job as an LHA and his experience working as a student employee in the LRC.
In order to take advantage of work-study, you need to understand exactly what it is and how it plays into student jobs at CU Denver. Work-study is a need-based financial aid option that allows you to take on part-time jobs on campus to earn money. Unlike other forms of financial aid, you're not just handed a check—you actually have to put in the hours. Students work anywhere from 10 to 20 hours per week in jobs around campus and take home a paycheck. It's a way to supplement income without increasing student loan debt.
The first step in accessing work-study funds is completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It's not the most thrilling task, we know, but it's a necessary step in the process. There are many resources that provide help completing the FAFSA. Check out StudentAid.gov for an easy-to-follow guide on applying. Once you've completed the FAFSA and been deemed eligible, you might find work-study funds included in your financial aid package.
Now, let's talk numbers. The amount you receive through work-study can vary based on your financial need and the availability of funds at your institution. Don't be fooled by the figure listed in your financial aid package—it's not a guaranteed payout. Think of it as a cap on what you could potentially earn over the school year. At CU Denver for example, if a student’s financial aid package includes $3,000 in work-study per semester, at $18.29/hour (Denver’s minimum wage), a student could work roughly 10 hours per week during a typical 15-week semester. That’s a paycheck every two weeks of approximately $200 which you could use for groceries, going out, etc. Ever the film fanatic, Jack shares, “One thing I spend my paycheck on every month is my membership to the local movie theater and then usually Fridays after work I have a group of friends that I'll go out and see a movie with.”
So, how do you land one of these coveted work-study positions? At CU Denver, departments and colleges frequently post available jobs on Handshake that students can search and apply for. For each posting, you’ll find job details like pay rate, skills required, and whether it’s a work-study position. While most work-study jobs are on-campus, some opportunities exist off-campus as well. These positions often involve community service work and can provide a different perspective on the job market.
Jack discusses how easy the process was for him. “Definitely start with Handshake... that’s where most students go. You can search by department or even by keywords if you know where you want to work on campus.” Finding a job in film on campus wasn’t as easy as he would have liked; the departments just weren’t hiring at that time. Instead, Jack decided to focus on job responsibilities. Although not directly tied to the film department, he was able to search for available positions where he could utilize his skillset/interests while ensuring whatever job he applied for worked with his demanding class schedule.
“Another thing you want to pay close attention to,” he mentions, “is whether that job requires a student to have work-study.” Since many departments at CU Denver operate with little to no budget for support staff, work-study allows departments to hire and pay student workers as part of the financial aid program. Before you even start, be sure to check with a hiring supervisor to obtain an “intent to hire” letter... you’ll need it as part of the process to release your work-study funds.
While Jack applied to several positions on campus through Handshake, he also mentioned the importance of networking and going out of your way to make an impression. Sharing on his job search and how he landed at the LRC, Jack says “After not hearing back from different jobs, and running out of time before my work-study award would be revoked, I stopped by the LRC table during Fall Fest just asking if they were hiring. Turns out they were! My now boss handed me his card and told me to contact him. A few days later, I was emailed a simple application. After a short interview process, I started as a Learning Hub Ambassador.”
Yes, work-study jobs can provide valuable experience in your field of interest, but let's be real—it's also about paying the bills and making sure you have a little extra for some fun. For those unable to find a position in their field of study, don’t be afraid to explore what opportunities other available jobs pose. Jack describes how he’s been able to expand his job duties to focus on things he loves to do. “A lot of on-campus jobs are willing to work with you even if they fall outside your particular area of study. When I first started at the LRC, they were really committed to having me in a role at the front desk.”
In the LRC, Learning Hub Ambassador’s work with their supervisor on an Individual Development Plan (IDP). In short, an IDP is an LRC-created, outlined vision for student workers to gauge their interests and area of study in an effort to target specific, self-made goals that the student wants to achieve while employed at the center. It’s a way for a front desk job to be more than that. “After discussing my IDP, my boss thought that I should be making video content for the department’s TikTok/social media. As a Film Major, it was really cool that we found a way that I could develop skills related to my major,” Jack explains. Without having work-study, he wouldn’t have been able land the LHA position. Now, when it’s a little slower at the front desk, Jack applies his technical skills and study in the film industry to research, film, and edit video content showcasing the services (and fun culture) of the LRC.
It’s important to think about other practicalities of a work-study job. You’ll often find these positions come with flexible schedules, which can be a lifesaver when juggling classes and other commitments. The LRC takes pride in ensuring studies come first and value the importance of education within their team. LHA work hours fit around their class schedules providing them the opportunity to advance their education while working in a department or college on campus to earn money.
Another huge benefit for Jack was the location. As a first-year student... starting at CU Denver... living in City Heights... and needing an on-campus job, the LHA position in Learning Commons was perfect! “As someone who lived on campus it was pretty great because my 'commute' to work was about 90 seconds every day,” he explains. Not only that, but the work-study program helped him find his way to a position in the LRC where he could work during the day, earning some income, and still having evenings for studies. “Working on campus is great for those weird gaps where you might have an hour or two between classes and wouldn't be able to commute to a normal job and back in time.” Most work-study positions are on-campus and would allow students ease to navigate between class and work. With the addition of City Heights in the heart of campus, students now have the option to live, work, and learn all within walking distance.
At the end of the day, work-study is about more than just earning a paycheck. It's a chance to gain valuable experience, develop new skills, and make meaningful connections. Work-study programs offer a practical solution to the financial challenges of college life. While not without their complexities, they provide valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth. So, fellow CU Denver job-seekers, embrace the journey, seize the opportunities, and make the most of the campus work-study experience. It's all part of the adventure of higher education.