Student Jobs: How Does Swat Compare?

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Jobs at Swarthmore seem like pretty standard campus employment. Students work everywhere from the library to offices to the Mary Lyon breakfast room. Jobs pay between $7.98/hour to $8.56/hour. Most students who want jobs can get them, either to fulfill work/study requirements or to earn some money separately from financial aid. It seems pretty basic, but is Swarthmore’s job situation typical of colleges around the country?

Students across the nation work in the library. Soracha Peterson ’11 from High Point College in High Point, NC explained that she “work[s] at the library under work study and … get[s] $6.15 an hour. The pay on campus isn’t great, but isn’t bad; also compared to home [Connecticut] the cost of living … is lower, therefore the salaries are lower.”

Jobs working for departments are also common. Laura Servedio ’11 from Quinnipiac University in New Haven, CT says “I do office work for 7 hours each week. [I] staple papers, make labels for folders- little jobs like that- organize and alphabetize papers, and, if I have time, do my homework.”

Some jobs, though, are different. For example, according to Shout, Carleton College’s online news source, students can get a job nude modeling for the art department. According to the article by Margaret Taylor, ’10, “Each model spends about 6 hours a week posing in front of a room full of Carls. For a hefty $9.28 an hour, they’re also on the clock during open drawing sessions in Boliou on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings.”

Swarthmore is unusual for not having a student work force in the dining hall or at the coffee bars. At Bryn Mawr, for example, all first-year students who have a campus job work for Dining Services. That said, Williams College also doesn’t hire student workers for its dining hall staff. Instead, its career pages lists jobs like Gallery Monitor, Box Office Assistant, and Mailrunner.

Salaries also vary dramatically—and Swarthmore seems to be on the lower end. At Swarthmore, most students receive $8.56/hour. At Yale University, however, starting salaries are $11.30 and rise to $13.30. Stanford offers a complex system with twelve tiers and pay ranging from $11.40 to $16.30. The University of Texas has student wages ranging from $8.50 to $14.00 for Computer Science mentors.

Campus jobs are not incredibly different around the country; in fact, Swarthmore jobs are fairly typical. Swatties spend hours on campus shelving library books, watching the game room, and doing paperwork for departments. They aren’t the most fascinating jobs, but they bring in a bit of money that is used for tuition, books, and spending.


  1. Swarthmore also employs students as nude models for art classes, but the pay is at the standard Swarthmore pay grade, not as high as Carleton.

  2. It’s interesting that you write: “Most students who want jobs can get them, either to fulfill work/study requirements or to earn some money separately from financial aid.” I’m not sure this is something you can take for granted; I’ve found that financial aid expects students to make a lot more money than they actually can on campus, even with three or four campus jobs (the Game Room being my favorite example, since that job is spread pathetically thin throughout the student body). I think it’s true that you can get “a job,” but whether you can make enough money to cover expected earnings for fin aid is debatable. I’m interested to hear if this is the case for other people as well.

  3. a,
    How much do they expect you to make? Or is it more a problem with unrealistic expectation of how much you save? I don’t have much of a problem saving a fair amount to help out..

  4. Yeah, I definitely second that financial aid expects you to earn a lot more than you actually can, even working 3+ jobs at more than the maximum allowed hours per week…it’s a ridiculous expectation with the Swarthmore pay scales and hour allowances. If my campus job was expected to actually go to FinAid and not to personal expenses like it was calculated, there is no way I would be able to match what they think we can earn…personal expenses I cut down on, but financial aid? Not so much.

  5. Could the discrepancy arise from the fact that some colleges put a greater emphasis on student work as a source of financial aid?

  6. That is certainly possible, E. When I helped research some of these schools, the numbers were nearly universally coming from FinAid websites. That said, a tiny handful of the jobs (Like UTexas’s CompSci mentor position) didn’t seem to have any relation to financial aid programs.

  7. I guess the work-study portion of the financial aid is similar for most schools, so the wage difference can be significant. And yea, Williams just dropped their loan portion of their financial aid package. Swatties will still have to work our butts off..

  8. I work in the Arboretum, and while much of my time is spent doing low skill labor, I consider it really like another class. I learn everyday trivia, useful information, and common sense from an incredibly knowlegeable boss who teaches me well.
    Additionally, it it possible to get work study here for tutoring ESL. My point is not that these are unique opportunities, I have no idea, but instead that they carry far more educational value than the paper pushing described above. It’s not only about making money.

  9. I’m not sure how financial aid has changed since I graduated, but I actually ended up making more than my work study originally was supposed to allow in my last two years at Swat. I had to write a letter to the financial aid office telling them why I needed to earn more money (otherwise they would not have let me earn more money). While people did talk about wanting higher student pay when I was a student (which is a valid thing to want, especially if you look at what students at other schools are making, so of course I see why this is a concern now), the people I knew who were on work study did not seem to have trouble earning the money they needed/were expected to earn.

    Doing a rough calculation…if you assume people make $8.56/hour, work 10 hours/week, and work 20 weeks during the year (out of the 27 weeks of academic classes), that gives you $1712 for the year while in school (before taxes are taken out…and I believe pre tax dollars at least used to be the amount that what you were “expected to earn” was based on). What does the financial aid office expect you to earn for the school year (not including summer)? I believe the max work study amount was around $1500 give or take my senior year (I’m not sure of the exact amount, but it was in this range), and the pay was slightly lower when I was a student. Also, how many hours do they allow you to work in a week? I’d be interested to see if things have changed.

    On a side note, it would have been nice to hear from the financial aid office for this article. Perhaps the feedback on this article from current students will prompt a followup article so the financial aid office might be able to address some of these concerns.

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