Winona State struggling with student worker shortage

Gabriel Hathaway, Copy Editor

Students who returned to campus have likely already noticed all the job postings on Handshake and around campus, not to mention the adjusted or reduced hours for on-campus stores like Zanes, or Einstein’s Bagels. The cause for these changes is due to the reduced number of student workers and the reason for the worker shortage may be more complicated than some assume.

The Associate Director of Career Services, Deanna Goddard, commented that the current worker shortage is not isolated to the Winona State University, but is felt all around the United States.

At Winona State specifically, there are hundreds of on-campus student positions, some of which include student help, work study and graduate assistantship, all of which are typically filled by September or October at the latest according to Goddard. Due to the worker shortage many of these positions are still open to applicants.

Goddard said the reason for the worker shortage is complicated, stating, “I think it’s a variety of things.”

The main reasons for the shortage according to Goddard came down to: student uncertainty about whether they will be staying on campus or in-person, COVID-19 burnout and wanting to spend time with friends or focus on school- work and students choosing to work off-campus.

“You can go and work at a fast food institution or organization and you could make potentially two to five dollars more than you would make on campus, so if your bottom line or goal is to make money, you may opt to work off-campus versus on-campus,” Goddard said. “But if you are looking to grow and develop certain skill sets especially in a very professional environment…that is something unique you can only find in a work study, or student help position or graduate assistant position here on campus.”

Goddard stressed the importance student workers play in the many departments they work in. With the present worker shortage, what workers the university does have are spread more thinly. Due to this, Goddard commented that wait times can be expected to be longer than usual, hours may be adjusted or reduced and there may be delayed responses. Some examples of the effect of the student worker shortage can be seen with Einstein’s Bagels and Somsen Cafe being closed on weekends and even the Caribou Coffee in Edu Village being closed entirely.

Another factor that plays into the student worker shortage is the fact that there are fewer students on campus this semester. According to Scott Ellinghuysen, the vice president of finance and administration, the university is down about 580 students which equates to a loss of 8 percent in enrollment. “Our enrollment is down so there are fewer available students to work,” Ellinghuysen said.

This drop in enrollment affects more than just the student worker population. Winona State receives 60 percent of its funding from student tuition money. Given that each student brings in about $8,000 according to Ellinghuysen, a drop of 580 students causes the university a loss of all over $4.5 million. Due to this drop, the university has begun taking some cost saving measures including offering early retirement packages to certain professors, and reassessing budgets among other things.

Ellinghuysen commented that enrollment at Winona State has been on a slow decline for the last 10 years, mentioning that this most recent budget reduction is the fifth in six years. Reassessing and managing the budget is a big part of what the university does to maintain a quality education for students, according to Ellinghuysen.

“We try and manage the budget so we have minimal impact to the student experience…Now 75-80 percent of our budget is in personnel, it’s in people,” Ellinghuysen said. “That’s what it is, it’s really a people kind of business. So it’s hard, when you talk about cutting the budget. You can trim that other 25 percent of the budget but some of those things are kind of untouchable, things like insurance, utilities to operate the buildings to heat them and cool them. You are looking at people quite honestly.”

The university is looking into different strategies to be proactive and get enrollment back up at Winona State. More students at Winona State would help with the financial issues and the student worker shortage problem.

According to Goddard, the often asked question, “When will the student worker shortage be resolved?” is ever present on the minds of student worker supervisors. Unfortunately, it is not an easy question to answer either. Goddard said they just don’t know, but she hopes spring semester will be better.

“My hope is that we continue, at a minimum, to maintain what we have for student workers here and that we will continue to have more come in,” Goddard said. “They are part of the fabric of the institution whether they realize it or not and so it would be great to have them continue working [on campus].”

Job positions for spring semester are currently open to applicants for several different departments including the Warrior Success Center, Goddard’s department.