Departments can't directly hire many out-of-state work-study students, must pay 35% fee on wages

You'll commonly hear of people looking on DukeList for work-study jobs. But what happens if you're taking class remotely this semester? 

Duke students who don't live in North Carolina aren’t able to be paid for hourly positions directly by the University. Instead, this semester they'll be paid through Aerotek, a Maryland-based staffing and recruiting agency. 

Aerotek charges a 35% fee on wages paid to the recipient, according to Duke's work-study guidelines for this semester. For every $100 a student earns, a department must pay $50 plus an additional $35 agency fee, with Duke or Federal Work-Study covering the other $50. The guidelines note that the share covered by the Federal Work-Study program is reduced from 75% to 50% when students are hired by employment agencies.

Student employees who are paid monthly and who don't currently reside in North Carolina or one of 10 approved states will also have to go through the same process. In general, these regulations only apply to compensatory payments, which are issued for work done that benefits the university—not non-compensatory payments, which are typically payments for scholarships, fellowships and summer internships—according to a Duke website.

The partnership with Aerotek stems from the fact that the university isn't set up to handle the regulation and compliance required to pay students residing outside of North Carolina.

Executive Vice Provost Jennifer Francis wrote in an email that "paying students who live in other states requires Duke to withhold appropriate state income taxes and to support other regulatory requirements. Duke is currently not set up to do business in many states, and doing so would have taken significant time and expense."

The impacts this policy has on the availability of work-study jobs this semester is unclear. Miranda McCall, acting director of financial aid, wrote in an email that the regulations restricting employment to those residing in North Carolina have existed for many years—it's only this year that the work-study program has partnered with a third party to expand hiring options.

Cheryl Wallace, payroll coordinator for the computer science department, said that the new rules haven't affected the hiring of undergraduate teaching assistants in her department. She has students on payroll who are both in and outside of North Carolina, and the department is paying them the amount they would receive in any other year. 

Moreover, departments are still adjusting to what staffing needs might look like, given the radically different nature of the fall semester. McCall wrote that many departments are still determining what positions they may want to post and how their staffing needs might have changed as they transition to increased levels of online learning and virtual work spaces.

Nevertheless, the new policy can be a big disappointment for students searching for jobs this semester. Because departments have to bear the cost of hiring out-of-state students, many listings on DukeList or other job boards are requiring that applicants reside in approved states.

First-year Erik Novak was in the process of applying for a math grader position when he was asked where he currently lives. As an international student, he just happened to be currently living in New York, one of the 10 approved states for employees paid on a monthly basis. He got the job.

"Given that you have like 20 to 25 percent of the Duke community being removed, between undergraduate and graduate students, I certainly find [this policy] less than ideal. Even if you have a bottom line to make ends meet, I think many students are also positively affected by the wage that they get as a result of these jobs," Novak said.

McCall wrote that "students who aren’t able to locate jobs through the work-study program and need help funding their incidental expenses can contact the financial aid office for advice on the best way to finance their needs. Additionally, those concerned about finances who may be experiencing reduced family income as a result of COVID-19 can complete an application to request a reevaluation of their aid based on their 2020 income information." 


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