Pomona, Pitzer reduce work allotments, creating stress for students

Justin Blankson-Phipps PZ ’19 and Roshni Patel PZ ’20 work at the Pitzer Residence Life office. (Chloe Ortiz • The Student Life)

Students at Pomona College and Pitzer College were confused and frustrated when they learned in July that their ability to work college sponsored jobs would be curbed by restrictions on hours.

Before adjusting to a slightly more lenient limit, Pomona Dean of Students Avis Hinkson announced in a July 17 email that the school would limit students to “one job or 6-8 hours of remote employment per week” to ensure that “as many full-time Pomona students as possible are able to secure remote campus employment with priority given to those receiving financial aid.”

In response to the changes, members of Pomona College FLI Scholars, a student group of first-generation and/or low income students at Pomona, drafted a petition calling on administration to increase work allotments.

The petition said that many students on financial aid typically reach the 20 hour weekly allotment to make ends meet, and that “working multiple student jobs is necessary to survive.” It urged Pomona’s administration to reconsider the reduced work study allotment, citing the needs of students requiring financial aid during a pandemic and the guaranteed source of income found in 16 to 20 hours of weekly work study. 

“For many, these biweekly paychecks are also expected by families too, even more so as many have become the sole breadwinners for their families as a result of the pandemic,” the petition said.

Selena Lopez PO ’22, co-president of FLI Scholars, told TSL that a cut in reliable work study hours moved her to find a job outside of the college altogether.

The change made me realize that I didn’t want to rely on Pomona for the income I usually made for work study, so I found another job that could help my family out,” Lopez said.

The petition said that the work limit would affect some students significantly more than others, and that “6 to 8 hours a week of work study will not be the same for a student in the lowest socioeconomic bracket as opposed to someone in a higher socioeconomic bracket.”

Pomona anticipated fewer student jobs being available in the fall since campus is closed and not all jobs can be performed remotely. In response, the college increased financial aid grants, according to Mark Kendall, a Pomona spokesperson.

All students on financial aid have received an additional $500 grant to cover books this semester,” Kendall said. “Normally students would work a student job to cover that cost.”

Pomona updated its student employment policy Aug. 14 after considering feedback from students and faculty. Students may now have “one stipend-based job or multiple hourly jobs to achieve a total of 12 hours per week employment,” an updated FAQ from the college’s website said.

The college has provided additional financial assistance to students who require it. Students on financial aid received from $2,400 to $3,450 in additional aid to replace the standard student contribution. Those with the greatest need also received an additional $750 grant to cover personal expenses for the fall, said Kendall. 

Many Pomona students also received federal government assistance this summer through the CARES Act, Kendall said.

“We’ve taken steps to promote equity in advance of addressing work hours because the pandemic, unfortunately, reduces employment possibilities both over the summer and with the college as the semester begins,” Kendall said. 

But even though Pomona is distributing more grant money, Lopez said, “the impact that [reduced hours] will have on students who usually work up to 20 hours is the same impact it would have on anyone who loses 60 percent of their income.” 

Additionally, students receiving fellowships, research grants or other kinds of work-based stipends, as well as part-time students, will not be eligible for student employment this fall, Hinkson said. 

At Pitzer College, students are also facing reduced work study hours and limited employment opportunities. Pitzer issued a set of “guidelines” for student employment in the fall, according to an email sent to students July 31 via the newly-formed Student Employment Working Group.

“Students should be limited typically to one position or up to approximately 10 hours of work per week to distribute jobs as widely as possible,” the guidelines read.

The working group will take a “two-step approach” to student employment for the fall semester, according to the email. It aims to gather input from the community to “assist the college in building a budget expectation for student employment in the fall.”

The group expected to work with supervisors in early and mid-August once a budget had been constructed to complete the hiring process and alert students of available positions. 

Although F-1 visa holders outside the U.S. are legally allowed to work, Pitzer students residing in international locations for the fall semester are ineligible to work, the email read, citing “tax regulations and other legal barriers.” The email also acknowledged “extremely challenging situations with which many international students have been dealing for several months, particularly with the turbulent policy changes and travel restrictions.”  

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rolled out a string of new policies this summer that heavily impacted F-1 visa-holding international students. ICE’s latest guideline states that new international students won’t be allowed to enter the U.S. if all their classes are online. 

Pitzer, like Pomona, won’t offer students any jobs physically on campus. But unlike Pomona, Pitzer students enrolled part-time will still be able to apply for remote jobs.

Pitzer students eligible for work-study employment based on financial need have been packaged with “additional institutional funds (a grant) to offset the loss of funds that would have been earned through their on-campus work-study position,” Pitzer spokesperson Jim Marchant said.

“The $500 grant doesn’t go into my pocket, which seems really counterintuitive because it’s replacing what I would have worked for, but in reality it just goes into my financial aid package,” said Valeria Duncan PZ ’21.

Her frustration also comes at her loss of employment from two student-employee positions she would have held this semester. She was set to work at the Resident Life Office, having previously worked as a Residential Assistant her junior year. Now, her only hope is continuing her job as a Spanish tutor for the fourth consecutive year, a job she does not yet know if she will be able to continue working. 

Harvey Mudd College recently announced rules barring non-Mudders and international students living abroad from becoming grutors, who support students in Mudd’s Computer Science Department. 

For students to be hired they must be  enrolled as a full-time student at Harvey Mudd for the fall and living in the U.S., an email to students Aug. 12 read. 

Mudd has not reduced students’ work study hours this year but anticipates “that students will work about 8 hours a week through their Federal Work Study job,” Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid Thyra Briggs said. 

Like Pomona, Mudd will also “prioritize the hiring of Federal Work Study students during the first two weeks of school to ensure that students will have the best opportunity of finding positions.”

Scripps College and Claremont McKenna College have not announced changes to their current work study policies, and didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

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