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UCO ranks high in work-study jobs offered

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UCO, located in Edmond, is one of the top ranked schools in the country for work study students. Mikayla Montoya, a junior,is enrolled in the nursing program at UCO. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]
UCO, located in Edmond, is one of the top ranked schools in the country for work study students. Mikayla Montoya, a junior,is enrolled in the nursing program at UCO. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]

Looking up from her desk inside the student affairs office, Mikayla Montoya smiles as a fellow student comes in needing help.

The student asks for a Scantron sheet for an upcoming exam, another student asks for a pen for the same test. Montoya obliges both and wishes them luck before going back to her studies while working on the clock for the University of Central Oklahoma.

“I know once I graduate I’ll get a job and I’ll be able to pay off my school,” she said. “But for now, every little bit helps.”

Montoya is just one of thousands of students at UCO who are taking advantage of Federal Work-Study jobs. A recent study ranked the Edmond college as one of the top schools in the nation for providing federal-funded student positions that range from office jobs to security positions and campus restaurant work.

Montoya, who’s in nursing school at UCO, works 15 hours per pay period in the student affairs office and makes $7.50 an hour, which she then turns around and pays back toward her student loans.

On average, UCO provides about $4,739 to each work-study participant, helping result in more than 43 percent of 2017-2018 graduates leaving school without owing any federal loans.

“It’s nice to have a job on campus, and being around other students is fun,” she said. “Even the little bit per semester that I make, that will help and be less stressful just knowing I won’t have that debt later on.”

Nationwide, more than 670,000 students earn more than a total of $1.1 billion as a way of easing the burden of student loan debts while working a schedule-friendly job in addition to a full-time student workload.

Students qualify for work-study through Federal Student Aid and are awarded eligibility based on financial need. But the number of jobs offered at each university can differ wildly.

UCO offers more than 3,100 jobs and ranks No. 2 in the nation according to a study by lendedu.com. The University of Oklahoma offers more than 530 jobs while Oklahoma State University offers around 330 jobs.

Critics of Federal Work-Study say the distribution model for the program is outdated as community colleges get far less funding despite serving more than 40 percent of undergraduates nationally. Others say the program doesn’t always provide adequate skills training for future careers.

Under President Barack Obama, the program funding was slashed by 10%. President Donald Trump has said he believes the program is in need of an overhaul and could see the budget cut by as much as 50% starting in 2020.

Montoya said she has earned about $2,500 toward her loans so far and that she hopes to continue with the on-campus job as she continues toward her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse.

“I know the less debt I can graduate with, the better off I’ll be,” she said. “It also makes you work harder because you are seeing what it takes to pay for it."

Adam Kemp

Adam Kemp is the Higher Education reporter for The Oklahoman and Newsok.com. Kemp grew up in Oklahoma City before attending Oklahoma State University. Kemp has interned for the Oklahoman, the Oklahoma Gazette and covered Oklahoma State Football... Read more ›

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