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Term-Time Employment: Costs and Benefits

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Nineteen percent of the student body, and 40 percent of all students receiving financial aid, are on work-study. Nearly all students receiving financial aid packages--two-thirds of the student body--are expected to work to defray the full cost of Harvard tuition, room, board and fees, a whopping $28,896 for the 1996-1997 academic year.

Once pre-frosh discover whether their financial-aid package designates loans, grants or term-time jobs, and whether they qualify for the Federal Work Study Program, the national system that subsidizes campus employment for needy students, they must begin making decisions about employment.

The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid generally expects students to make $2,000 during the academic year for books, supplies and personal expenses. With most campus jobs paying between $6 and $8.50 an hour, averaging between 8 and 12 hours a week.

The extra time can take its toll. In his first year at Harvard, Rey F. Ramos '98 had to work 10 to 12 hours a week.

"It was hard to adjust and still get my work done," he says. "In addition, I was constantly broke."

Ramos ended up taking out more loans. Last fall, he joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps, which now provides him with a scholarship. He still holds a job, though, to cover personal expenses like transportation and phone bills.

For some students, work commitments take away from other activities. "I have to spend 15 hours a week of my 'free time' working; I cannot commit myself to extracurriculars which demand high time commitment," explains Charles Savage '98, who works 10 hours a week doing dorm crew and five as a research assistant.

Mary B. Lawless '98 works 16-18 hours a week at the Sanders Theater box office and an additional 8 to 10 hours as a research assistant.

"I think the basic things that lose out are the extra opportunities that I could take advantage of," said Lawless, who hails from Owl's Head, a rural hamlet of 200 in upstate New York.

Still, she manages a heavy extracurricular commitment, having produced six plays during her time at Harvard.

"It's true that Harvard is in principle available to anyone who can get in, but I think the university should ask itself hard questions as to how the experience differs for students who have to hold down one or two term-time jobs," says Joshua L. Oppenheimer '96-'97, who is not on financial aid, but worked six hours a week doing dorm crew last year. "That difference is quite profound. They get less back overall from the university."

But some students stress the benefits of working, and say they view term-time work as an opportunity to keep in touch with the world outside of Harvard's brick and stone buildings or an escape from the ethereal world of academia.

"It's helped me to stay grounded and focused," says Ourania R. Tserotas '98, who attended high school in inner-city Chicago and was the first ever from her school to go to the Ivy League. "It's made me realize I don't need to hide or change who I am."

Tserotas works 10 hours a week training teenagers to be social activists at the Cambridge Peace and Justice Corps, a city-funded program.

"There's a certain enjoyment in manual labor and seeing something that you've cleaned and not having to think of anything for a while," says Lauralee Summer '98, who works between 7 and 14 hours a week in two jobs: dorm crew and the Radcliffe development office's alumnae phonathon.

"If I were given a choice, maybe it would be better for me to focus on school, but maybe it's good for me to see my money comes from my efforts. I don't think it's unreasonable to have to work," she says. "For me, it's a part of life."

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