Reaction to bill requiring service for grants mixed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 29, 2003

Students receiving state grants might be helping out the maintenance department if a bill currently in the state House of Representatives is passed.

The bill, House File 826, would require any student receiving a state grant of more than $2,000 to contribute five hours of public service at the school they are enrolled in. The service would include things like shelving library books, maintaining school grounds and selling tickets at sporting events.

At Riverland Community College there are about 700 students receiving state grants. About 300 of those receive more than $2,000, said Gary Schindler, vice president of student affairs.

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Cassie Matthes, who studies radiography at Riverland, is one of those students.

"I wouldn't mind that," she said. "The state helps you out, and you turn around and help them out with a few hours of community service."

Carrie Braaten, who is taking general classes, said she doesn't get state money but is hoping to in the future.

"I think that's a pretty low amount of time to spend if you're getting $2,000 in grants," she said. "If I received even a $500 grant, I'd definitely work five hours."

Schindler is not quite so positive.

"My main concern is that I know the load on our students," he said. "Many of them work and many go to school full time. Their hands are full, and to be adding this onto their plate, I can see this being frustrating."

Another part of the issue is the effect it would have on the administration.

Schindler said the organization that would be required would place a huge load on school employees.

"That's where the struggle is, to find five hours of work for 300 students per semester," Schindler said. "I've got to go to someone and say, 'Hey, we've got you stretched to the limit now, but we need you to find work for 300 students."

Schindler did say there were some areas where students could help out the school, like tutoring and child care.

"I could see some benefits," he said. "We do need help like that, and we could fill in with a short-term labor supply."

Librarian Kathleen Nelson said she didn't agree with the bill because she would have to supervise new people every day. She said the state needs to move some of the funding for grants into work study programs.

"The benefit of having a work study program is we have a very good wage, so they may end up working less hours for more money," Nelson said.

Work study students currently receive $8 per hour, but are limited to 15 hours per week.

Student Rachel Kauffman thinks work study is a good experience.

"Right now I do a part time job in the library," she said. "I think everyone should have to do that."

Matt Merritt can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at