As a result of Boston University’s campus closure during the COVID-19 pandemic, BU students receiving federal work-study grants were forced to cease work or begin working remotely at their supervisor’s request. So far there is no plan in place to help students who cannot work remotely to earn the rest of their funding for the semester.
Work-study recipients are given the opportunity of part-time employment at a BU-approved agency to earn an amount determined by their grant, according to the BU Federal Work-Study page. Work-study grants are considered part of a student’s financial aid package.
Students inquiring about the status of their work-study jobs and grants on BU’s coronavirus Question and Answer page have thus far been told by Katy Collins, director of Student Outreach and Engagement, to contact their supervisors for more information.
Julie Wickstrom, executive director of financial assistance at BU, wrote in an email that the department is working diligently to find a solution for students who cannot continue to work.
“We are working to make decisions and plan the communication and implementation,” Wickstrom wrote. “ My first priority has to be to our impacted students and the work required to follow through with these steps to get them the information they need.”
She also wrote that the decision making process has been difficult for the faculty.
“These are unprecedented times and the University has to be thoughtful in making and implementing decisions, and that is often not as simple as making one decision,” Wickstrom wrote. “All of our decisions have other consequences we must carefully consider.”
Wickstrom wrote that she could not comment further on the matter, as the final decision is pending and all her efforts are currently going into the issue at hand.
Further updates about how BU will handle work-study payments will be posted to the university’s COVID-19 website as they become available.
Grace Helmke, a freshman in the College of Fine Arts, has a work-study job with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, which was recently shut down amid the pandemic. She said they currently do not have a remote position for her, so she has been trying to find out if the school will pay her the remainder of her work-study grant.
“I’m personally struggling,” Helmke said. “I had plans for what I was going to use my paycheck from these weeks for, but I don’t have a way to pay for [those things] now.”
Helmke also said that her family was left with only one source of income after all of the mandated shutdowns caused by coronavirus. Helmke said it is vital that she is somehow reimbursed or given a remote work option to earn her remaining work-study funds.
“The work-study was part of the scholarships that were offered for me to come here, and I depend on that financial aid,” Helmke said. “To not let us fulfill the rest of our work-study requirements would be taking away some of that financial aid and sending the wrong message to financially disadvantaged students.”
Kelsey Stromberg, a freshman in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, who had a Spring semester work-study job at the Stone Science Library, said that BU did not inform her that she could not resume working.
Stromberg also said BU has not reached out to her with any updates about funding for work-study recipients, and she thinks they need to initiate better communication.
“Communication is the best way to help alleviate the problem,” Stromberg said. “I found out [they’re still deciding on what to do] on the website by scrolling through all the comments.”
UPDATE: As of March 26, Boston University’s Student Employment Office has decided to pay Federal Work-Study grant recipients the remainder of their aid for this semester, despite the fact that many are unable to continue working.