Pomona College Cuts Work Study Hours, Students Petition

Earlier this month, Pomona College sent out an email to the student body stating that students would be limited to one on-campus job, or 6-8 hours of paid work for the college, per week. The college explained that this decision was made 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.” Pomona College also plans to convert the work study allotments of the students most in need into grants.

In the email, the Pomona administration stated that  “[w]e recognize the important role that campus employment plays in providing resources for students to cover their expenses and gain skills for future employment…Towards that end, and building on the model used this summer, we are limiting students to one job or 6 -8 hours of remote employment per week. Students may have noticed that their student employment allotments were reduced as a result of the College replacing a portion of the fall student employment allotment with grant for books and in some cases, for personal expenses as well. Students receiving fellowships, research grants or other kinds of work-based stipends will not be eligible for student employment. Part-time students are also not eligible for student employment. Students are also not eligible to volunteer in unpaid research. Lastly, students are also not eligible to work on campus or come to campus for their student jobs.”

In response, Pomona First-Generation Low-Income (FLI) Scholars released a petition calling for the administration to “reconsider the allotted 6-8 hours of work study a week to accommodate the needs of students on financial aid during a pandemic, allowing students who need the extra income to have the full 16-20 hours of weekly work study.” According to the petition, “[i]n addition to the increasing financial pressures amid these precarious times, online classes, health concerns, increased family obligations in some cases, and social unrest are all added hardships for low-income students.”

The students explained that, though the administration’s decision ensures all students have an equal opportunity to work one job, “equality is not equity.  Considering that about 60% of students are on financial aid, making sure that all students are able to have a work study job lacks to acknowledge the wide range of income levels of students on financial aid. Equity versus equality is the question, and the answer is that 6-8 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. The priority should lie in being equitable to the best of Pomona’s abilities.” 

Furthermore, the petition ran, “[m]any returning students expected to return to campus to work their same multiple jobs. Students should not have to be put in the position of explaining why more work study is needed — for many students, the pandemic has meant more than just a dangerous virus; it has meant loss of family members, income, security, therapy, general wellbeing, and the list continues. Asking students to explain to supervisors or administrators why more hours are needed, places students in a vulnerable position and may easily trigger trauma.”

The students concluded their petition with the statement that “[w]hile we understand that at this time it is difficult to determine the amount of hours a job is able to provide due to the nature of remote jobs, we ask you to support some of your most vulnerable students during this time through equitable actions.” 

According to its website, Pomona College is “promoting educational equity” by “convert[ing] a portion of the fall student employment allotment into grants for students with the greatest financial need.” Additionally, the College stated that “For students on financial aid, Pomona has replaced the minimum student contribution ($1,900 to $2,200) typically earned through summer work, with a scholarship for the 2020-21 academic school year as additional support.”

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