Rates of student employment may have increased this fall, the first semester after the University eliminated the $3,500 student contribution from all financial aid packages. Preliminary data indicates the percentage of undergraduates working campus jobs at the end of this semester will be “the same as or slightly higher” than in Fall 2022, University spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss wrote in an email sent to The Daily Princetonian.
In the 2022–23 school year, over half of the student body worked at some point during the academic year. Available data also shows that pay for all campus jobs is currently clustered between $14.13 and $17, with all wages set to increase in January.
Stepping away from the student contribution ended a decades-long precedent of University aid packages including a student work-study expectation. Requirements for summer and academic year jobs were lifted in the 2021–22 academic year, replaced by the student contribution of $3,500 that could be met through campus job earnings, summer earnings, an independent scholarship, or a loan. The student contribution was an estimated amount meant to cover students’ personal expenses including books, supplies, and recreation rather than a fixed amount to be paid to the University.
“While the student contribution was not officially earmarked for campus employment, many students worked on campus to meet their contribution,” Hotchkiss wrote in the statement to the ‘Prince.’
When the student contribution was still in place, the Office of Financial Aid’s official Terms of 2022-2023 Financial Aid Award suggested campus jobs as a way to meet the student contribution, noting that the full $3,500 could be earned “by working an average of 10 hours per week for 30 weeks.”
Last March, when the 2023–24 financial aid program was announced, Provost Jennifer Rexford, the University’s chief budgetary officer, explained that these changes were aimed to allow students on financial aid “greater freedom to pursue their educational and extra-curricular passions.”
Under the new financial aid program, most families making up to a total of $100,000 are eligible to receive aid covering the entire cost of a student’s expenses at Princeton — an increase from the former benchmark of $65,000. Additionally, the allowance provided by the University for personal expenses increased from $550 to $4,050 per year.
But while these changes to the financial aid policy affect the approximately 62 percent of undergraduates who are on some form of financial aid, employment rates have not reduced this semester, according to Hotchkiss.
Uncertainties related to the national economy, the increased size of the class of 2026, and misalignments between administration and student perception of campus employment may be among contributing factors for the constant employment rates.
For many students, however, the line between a job and extracurricular is not so clearly defined.
Gabriela Veciana ’24, who has worked for the Department of Music, the Center for Career Development as a Peer Career Advisor (PCA), and the Undergraduate Office of Admission as a Campus Visit Ambassador (CVA), called her coworkers with the admissions office “a second community.”
“Last year, we did spin classes together. Some of my supervisors and the admissions officers came to see me in the Triangle show. We had a Bent Spoon open tab last week,” Veciana said.
Reed Marthers ’27 started working as a Coffee Club barista this fall, citing personal interest in the job as her main reason for applying. Like Veciana, she also noted finding camaraderie with coworkers. “They do try to foster a community among the baristas,” she said.
Some students also report deriving educational benefits from their campus jobs. “School is a lot sometimes, so a job that allows me to work and do school work is the perfect job,” Chandler Jones ’26 said, noting that her job at the front desk of the Lewis Center for the Arts has made her “a better communicator with teachers, TAs, and other students.”
Although initially nervous about the time commitment of a campus job, Jones told the ‘Prince’ that after starting at the LCA this fall and “seeing how possible it is to be a student and worker” simultaneously, she ended up getting a second job at MEND, a sustainable fashion organization run through the Office of Sustainability.
The continuing rates of student employment also come alongside wage increases. In 2019, Governor Phil Murphy introduced a five-year plan for minimum wage legislation that enforces a gradual increase (around $1 annually) with the goal of bringing base pay to $15 per hour statewide by 2024.
Campus jobs are divided into three primary pay brackets: “worker 1,” “worker 2,” and “manager/tutor” positions. These classifications are determined by level of supervision, requisite technical knowledge or previous experience, and difficulty of work. Only “worker 1” positions, described on the Undergraduate Financial Aid Office website as “structured, with a high level of supervision” and requiring “little to no prior experience,” have been affected by this legislation directly.
In January 2022, “worker 1” wages increased from $12.50 to $13.00 to comply with the new $13.00 minimum wage. One year later, when minimum wage increased again to $14.13, “worker 1” wages increased to $14.13. However, both years the University opted to raise wages for the higher pay brackets as well.
As the plan reaches its final stage, working students can expect to receive another pay bump of one dollar per hour in January 2024.
To further analyze the employment opportunities available to students, the ‘Prince’ looked at a set of 152 jobs available on the University’s student employment portal in October. The ‘Prince’ found that while most campus jobs pay around or slightly higher than the New Jersey minimum wage mark of $14 per hour, some positions offer $20 or more.
According to Hotchkiss, in recent years the number of students employed in co-curricular and peer advisory positions, such as undergraduate research assistants and course assistants, has “increased significantly.”
Like Jones, Paige Sherman ’25 also started her first two campus jobs this semester: one at the LCA front desk, and another as a TA for DAN 207: Introduction to Ballet. She described the TA job as “really fun,” adding, “while it makes up a much smaller portion of my income than the LCA job, a little extra money each week does not hurt.” She also noted stable income, flexible hours and a sense of community among the staff as advantages of her job at the LCA.
Most student workers are not employed under Federal Work-Study (FWS), a program which provides federal funding for campus employment for students with financial need. Following this year’s financial aid overhaul, Hotchkiss said, “most of our aid students are receiving too much grant aid from the University to qualify for FWS. As a result, the number of FWS-eligible students in 2023–24 is down significantly compared to previous years.”
Hotchkiss told the ‘Prince’ that “virtually all undergraduate jobs (over 98 [percent]) are open to both FWS and non-FWS students alike,” meaning that FWS eligibility is not an obstacle for any student who wants to work a campus job.
Employment is expected to continue to increase across the board in the spring semester if trends from recent years hold.
“Approximately 200 more students work in the spring compared with the fall – this increase is primarily driven by higher numbers of first-year students taking on employment in the spring term,” Hotchkiss wrote.
Tess Weinreich is an associate News editor at the ‘Prince.’
Annie Rupertus is an associate News Editor at the 'Prince.'
Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.