By Lance Kramer
San Francisco’s minimum wage recently went up to $10.24 an hour, an increase of 32 cents from 2011, while City College work-study students still receive a flat rate of $9 an hour.
According to the U.S Department of Education website, “Hourly wages (for the Federal Work-Study program) must not be less than the federal minimum wage,” which has remained at $7.25 an hour since 2009.
The City College work-study wage, although far lower than the San Francisco’s minimum wage, is still higher than both the federal minimum wage and the California minimum wage of $8 an hour.
Those applying for work-study at the college must first file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and then qualify through the online Student Hiring Eligibility Process. The student must also be enrolled in at least six credit units or 12 non-credit units. However not all students who apply are determined to be eligible for the program
Kirk Ireland, a 21-year-old student majoring in history, began attending City College in fall of 2009 and qualified for the work-study program in May of 2011.
He works about six hours a week as a docent at the Diego Rivera Theatre protecting Rivera’s masterpiece and giving tours of the mural. He also works five hours a week in the School of Liberal Arts department office.
“It helps me. I don’t have to go home and I don’t have to commute to a job later at night, so it actually helps a lot,” said Ireland about his experience with the work-study program. “It’s part of my success that I attribute to working on campus.”
Work-study employees can work a maximum of 15 hours a week, which some feel does not provide enough income to get by on. And, as a result of the current financial crisis, hours are being cut for some students.
For Ireland, maintaining enough hours is the least of his worries.
“There was talk of not even having the mural open this semester because they just don’t have the budget,” he said. “I’m actually not hired yet in the system because we don’t have the funds, so I have not been paid up to this point. I’m getting paid, I just don’t know when.”
Nate Carter, a 45-year-old City College student currently working in the CalWORKS office at the Ocean campus, has been involved in the work-study program since Fall 2011 and works between 13 and 15 hours a week.
“I live in Marin, so its really convenient because it cuts down travel time from school, to a job, to home,” he said. “Considering what’s going on in the economy, and for the work that I do, I believe the pay is fair.”
But Carter could soon be facing his own difficulties with the financial cut-backs at City College.
The problem with the work-study program, says Carter, is that if an employee works 15 hours a week, the maximum amount, the college would run out the federal funds allocated for the program in the middle of the semester.
“If you work 15 hours a week, every week throughout the two semesters, your money will run out before you get to the end of the second semester,” he said. “In my situation, I’m about to max out of the funds that were provided through financial aid and they are going to have to tap into other resources to keep me on throughout the rest of the semester.”