Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.
Social distancing mandates and canceled in-person classes in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak have created uncertainty for students who rely on work-study programs to pay their bills.
On Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott waived regulations that would have blocked universities from receiving state funding for work-study programs. The waiver gives schools the ability to pay students for work-study hours they were scheduled to work. The decision was made for the Texas College Work-Study Program in accordance with a March 5 announcement by the United States Department of Education, which offered recommendations for institutions to handle students who cannot work due to COVID-19.
“The waiver allows institutions to continue paying students for hours they would have worked had they been able to continue working,” said Kelly Carper Polden, media communicator at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “It simply allowed institutions to continue using the funds they have received for the program to disburse to students.”
The waiver will not include students who are employed on campus but are not part of a work-study program, Carper Polden said. In addition, individual institutions will be able to decide how this is enforced.
University President Gregory Fenves said during a March 12 press conference that the University intends to maintain student employment.
“Our goal is to continue campus operations, including student employees,” Fenves said. “That’s one of the reasons we are developing this approach because for many of these students, that is their income. That’s what they rely on to pay for food and for housing.”
On March 15, the Moody College of Communication announced to their work-study student employees that they suspended nonteaching and nonresearch employment over the extended spring break. However, after Abbott waived those regulations, the college revoked the suspension.
“With the extension of spring break and move to remote work for most faculty and staff, Moody College of Communication initially decided to pause work/study for students during that time frame,” Moody spokesperson Kathleen Mabley said in a statement to the Texan. “With the governor’s statement and feedback from our work/study students, Moody College determined that continuing work/study was in our students’ best interests.”
Mabley said Moody College is still evaluating options for students, and supervisors will keep employees informed of decisions.
Colby Holloman, who is a participant in the work-study program as an office assistant in the English department, said she has only received information about what will happen with her work-study job from her supervisor.
“I depend on the job for income and am still locked into a lease in West Campus, so I would have to continue to pay rent if the University was closed,” history junior Holloman said. “I would definitely have to find another job, which I do think would be difficult considering the current virus situation.”