Proposed bill will require universities to increase off-campus work-study positions in the private sector

Eleanor Dearman

Lawmakers are working to increase the number of off-campus work-study opportunities in the private sector.

On Wednesday, the House Higher Education Committee heard HB 2365, which, if passed, would expand off-campus work-study opportunities for the Texas College Work-Study Program, a state-funded program that offers part-time jobs to students with financial need at private and public institutions.

State schools would offer off-campus programs based on the size of the city in which the institution is located. The bill, authored by Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston), was left pending in committee.

The Senate gave final approval to a similar bill last Thursday requiring that institutions offer up to 50 percent of their work-study jobs off campus.

The current version of Murphy’s bill would require UT to have at least 25 percent of its work-study options located off campus. Universities in cities with more than a million people would need 50 percent of their opportunities off campus. 

Murphy said the bill would provide work-study students the opportunity to get experience working in their chosen field while still using work-study benefits.

“Employers today, we’re hearing, want to have people with real-world, relevant job experience — even people who just got out of their degree [program],” Murphy said.

UT currently offers some off-campus work-study options. According to the University website, students can participate in federally funded community service work-study programming, which includes tutoring and certain research and administrative opportunities off campus.

Jamie Brown, communications coordinator for the Office of Student Financial Services, said there are no UT students using work-study in the private sector. According to a Center for Public Policy Priorities report Murphy cited in crafting the bill, no institutions in 2014 used the Texas College Work-Study Program in the private sector.

More than 800 students are receiving work-study funds at UT. Of these students, 746 work on campus and 98 work off campus, according to Brown.

Most students at UT choose to work on campus for their work-study, Brown said.

“With on-campus work-study, the student is continuously in the college environment,” Brown said. “They don’t have to concern themselves with leaving campus.”

The University will have to review its work-study program and find new off-campus opportunities if the bill were to pass, according to Brown.

Murphy said he thinks increased off-campus work-study opportunities could save universities and the state money.

When students receive a job under the Texas College Work-Study Program, the state pays portions of the students’ salary. Universities, colleges and nonprofits pay 25 percent of the salary, while private sector employers pay for 50 percent of the cost, according to Murphy.

The state budget allocated about $9.4 million to the Texas College Work-Study Program this year, and universities review eligible students on an annual basis. 

Government senior Bettany Valsin worked two work-study jobs while at UT — one in the University’s financial aid office and another at St. David’s Medical Center. Valsin said she prefers on-campus work-study programs because of the convenience that comes with on-campus work. However, Valsin said having an off-campus work-study job that would benefit one’s major would be worth the inconvenience of traveling off campus.

“I think that if the off-campus work-study position were extremely beneficial, like something that would look really good on any résumé, I would be all for it,“ Valsin said.