Michaela Lumpert, Campus Carrier news editor
To stay up to date, view our continually updated report on LifeWorks changes.
The LifeWorks Program is going through a renewal process that is changing the number of hours a student can work and how much a student is paid. The new changes mean that level 1 and 2 students would receive $9, level 3 students would receive $9.25 and level 4 and 5 students would receive $9.50 an hour. Students will also be limited to working only 12 hours a week as upperclassmen and 10 hours a week as first-year students.
According to Chief of Staff Debbie Heida, the process for the change started a few months ago. She, along with other faculty members, realized that there were outside factors affecting the student work program and students in it. As Heida explained, the renewal process started with a big discussion on how the college could offer competitive rates like other off-campus jobs all while maintaining the budget so that tuition does not have to increase.
While considering increasing the pay, another problem that administration faced, was how to keep costs low so that tuition did not have to increase. The solution, as Heida described, was to limit students to only working 12 hours a week.
An alternative way to help keep costs down is to reduce the number of hours areas around campus. Throughout this process, both Heida and the staff advisory committee have asked each vice president of each school of the college to make a 25 percent cut to their budget. Making these cuts in each area comes down to what each vice president prioritizes for student work. Heida believes that the college cannot make these cuts, but rather the vice presidents of the different schools can because they know their specific area and what their area prioritizes.
“Each vice president has that prioritization to do in their own area,” Heida said.
Creating the budget cuts has also caused concern around campus. As Heida discussed, there are some departments that are worried about getting all their hours covered.
“There are places that are nervous,” Heida said. “Res life is a little nervous. They have had to make adjustments and how they are doing RAs. The animal units are a little nervous. There are places with direct service, and if they need the same hours covered then they will need more students.”
Although Heida did not say how the 12 and 10 hour a week limits will be enforced, she says that they will be enforced.
“We have got to enforce it, or else we won’t stay in budget,” Heida said.
Currently, there are no plans for the possibility of going over budget with the new renewal process changes. According to Heida, the college has made an effort to stay within budget by asking departments to decrease.
“We currently spend $5.4 million on student work,” Heida said. “So it’s a hefty budget. To increase it, we would have to figure out how we do that. We either have to stop doing something else and put money there, or we have to increase tuition. There’s only so many sources of revenue.”
Off-campus businesses have also been helping with offsetting the budget. Students have the ability to work off campus with Berry’s local business partners. These students are paid through those businesses specifically, all while still receiving hours through the LifeWorks program. The college does not have to cover the costs of their paychecks.
Dean of Personal and Professional Development Marc Hunsaker explained that these programs will help with the change.
“It will help to alleviate some of the pressure on the general student work budget,” Hunsaker said.
The Spires is considered one of these off-campus programs, and will be paying students directly once it opens in June.
“The whole reason the college got in the business of the Spires was not to just create another place here, but it does become a place that provides revenue to the college,” Heida said.
Current and incoming students will have the option of working at the Spires. Ten incoming upperclassmen Gate Scholars will be required to work at the Spires for one year and can choose to either stay or return to their previous jobs after the one-year commitment. This requirement will only be in effect for this upcoming year.
“The reason that we are asking that students who work at the Spires make a commitment of a year is when you are working in a specialty community, relationships get formed there,” Heida said. “And the last thing you want when you are relying on those relationships to create a positive environment is a revolving door of staff.”
The announcement of the renewal process shocked students, especially Gate scholars and those who work 16 hours a week or more. But Heida explained that this decrease in hours doesn’t have to be seen as a negative side effect.
“A side effect of that is you may have a few more hours in your life to allocate out, which many of our students have said for years, ‘we are way too busy at Berry,’ so if that’s a little bit of a side effect, that may be a positive side effect,” Heida said. “Now there are some students who don’t think that’s positive, but there are also students who do.”
According to both Heida and Hunsaker, one of the major concerns that they have heard students state about the change is that the reduction in hours will mean a reduction in gaining an experience in the program. As Heida explained, this is not the case at all.
“Nobody has talked about reducing any responsibility related to things,” Heida said. “It’s really talking about the number of hours you are putting in at work. But I understand why they are concerned. And some of that has been our delivery method.
As Hunsaker begins to take over the Life Works program, he explained that he will continue to make sure that the jobs being offered are meaningful and impactful to students.
“Heading forward, as I move into some of the responsibilities that the chief of staff currently has, is to continue to create more meaningful work opportunities and experiences for students,” Hunsaker said. “I will be working with supervisors, my whole office will, to make sure that students are getting the best personal, professional development opportunities through any and all jobs that we have on campus.”
Making jobs more meaningful, as Hunsaker described, would mean working with supervisors on different training programs and using the Center for Personal and Professional Development as a resource to better the LifeWorks program and the jobs on campus.
Not only is this change about creating competitive pay for students, but Heida described that it’s also about enhancing the work opportunities on campus for students. One way to do that, as she stated, is to working with the new and improved Center for Personal and Professional Development.
Heida hopes that throughout this process, students remain open to the change and flexible as administration works through the issues that arise.
“What I say to students is work with us, give it a try, we are going to find out where this carefully designed system does and does not work well, and we will adjust,” Heida said.