Murray State revises student worker policy

Almost 95 percent of University students receive some form of financial aid, usually coming in the form of Federal Work Study, scholarship obligations, student employment or other campus career opportunities.

In order to maximize earning power and help afford the rising costs of education, many students sought employment in multiple departments or conducted research.

So when the Kentucky Employees Retirement System (KERS) spent this past summer creating and enforcing laws requiring student workers to maintain 20 hours or less of campus employment through one department, several departments lost part-time assistants as soon as the semester began.

The College of Science and Engineering, the Office of Dining Services and Racer Hospitality and the journalism and mass communication department were among the hardest hit, as lab technicians, cartoonists, advertising sales representatives and cafeteria workers had to choose between multiple campus jobs in order to meet regulations.

Bonnie Higginson

Through careful research and legal circumvention, however, campus officials have revised the student employment guidelines regarding hours of work in order to better accommodate student and faculty needs and to maintain stability in the campus workforce.

Vice President of Student Affairs Don Robertson, in conjunction with Bonnie Higginson, vice president of Academic Affairs and Tom Hoffacker, director of human resources, collaborated efforts and constructed new campus guidelines in order to comply with the regulations, but still allow students to hold multiple positions on campus.

“The revised policy allows students to hold up to two on-campus positions as long as they don’t exceed the maximum 20 hours per week,” Higginson said. “It will particularly help the college of Science, Engineering and Technology where they have many lab assistants and lab workers who work five, six and seven hours a week.”

Through the newly drafted policy, there are two new employment classifications: student workers and student temporaries. Each has its own set of rules to help maintain regulations enforced by KERS.

Student workers are students who work no more than 20 hours per week or less, and include University student workers or a combination of Federal Work Study and University employment totaling 20 hours. Student workers are not permitted to work in more than two departments per pay period, and a graduate assistant is not permitted to work as a student worker in the same semester.

Student temporaries are students who work more than 20 hours per week, working a maximum of nine consecutive months but then must change their status to student worker. Upon changing their status, the student must then work a maximum of 20 hours per week for one calendar month or observe a one calendar month break. Temporaries are not eligible for Federal Work Study and are not permitted to be student workers in the same pay period. Graduate Assistants are also not allowed to work as temporaries in the same semester.

While departments will be responsible for the overseeing of all guidelines and employment assigned to students, Robertson said it was originally too complex and too costly for departments to undertake this task.

“Monitoring these rules for only having one job is so complex, we didn’t have the staff to monitor that,” Robertson said. “The Provost’s Office and my office are going to have to come up with the money.”

Higginson said it would cost approximately $15,000 to create a position responsible for the processing of time cards, payroll and paperwork.

Said Higginson: “We will hire someone in a temporary position for this academic year and we will see how it goes. They will monitor hours and will be ensuring we aren’t going over.”