Next year, students in leadership positions currently being paid through stipends will receive their payment as a scholarship rather than compensation.
According to Director of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Whitney Broetje, this change will better exemplify the core, “philosophical” purpose behind leadership positions at Seattle Pacific University.
“Really where the scholarship piece comes in is we want to be clear with students as well as legally that … leadership roles are not jobs. It’s volunteer and the whole purpose is to be providing … an extracurricular learning opportunity,” Broetje says.
According to Broetje, scholarships will serve to better reflect this. Broetje says that advisors and coordinators involved with ASSP had already been trying to frame leadership positions as learning opportunities this year as well, including a list of “learning outcomes” for certain leadership positions that were detailed in ASSP application forms.
Students receiving these scholarships will have the option to either have their payment go directly to their student account like a traditional scholarship or continue to have it paid directly to their bank account. Students will be paid the same amount as had been agreed upon during compensation discussions and, as a scholarship, the payment will not be taxable.
Aside from emphasizing that leadership positions on campus are volunteer learning opportunities rather than jobs, Broetje says that the change also serves to provide legal clarity as well.
“We need to have clear distinction between, you’re not being paid an hourly minimum wage, these are not being titled as jobs,” Broetje says.
According to Vice President of Finance Josiah Gaede, attorneys at SPU had been planning this change for some time, informing him of their plans at the beginning of the quarter.
“It’s going to run through student financial services rather than the finance department because it’s scholarship based,” Gaede says.
One of the biggest differences following this change is the fact that scholarships will be given as a single lump sum at the beginning of each quarter, rather than on the monthly basis in which stipends have been given in the past. Gaede says this might take time for students to get used to.
“It’s going to be an adjustment for students to say, okay, I have my one lump sum for the quarter,” he says.
Alongside this new budgeting, Gaede also says that students will have plan out their spending a bit better especially if they suddenly need to drop out of their position in the middle of a quarter.
“If students drop out of their positions, that’s fine, they just need to know that they’re going to be charged for the next quarter and they would just pay through the process of, like when you pay your tuition the next quarter,” Gaede says.
Executive Vice President McClintock Miller agrees, saying that there will be some “budgeting drawbacks” for students not used to this kind of payment.
“That’s pretty hard … it’s just hard for anybody to do on a three month term, to pay for a monthly rent with a three month payment,” Miller says.
However, in the end, Miller says that the change leaves students better off.
“I think it’s great that scholarships are not taxable so student workers are getting more money,” he says. “Overall, I think it’s actually better.”
For Gaede, the change to scholarship based payments also means that while students won’t be able to be paid hourly like they would in a job, a scholarship allows SPU to continue paying them while upholding the same amount of leadership positions. Gaede says that there are about 70 student leadership positions being paid through stipends and paying them through scholarships in coming years will allow the school to prevent cutting that number to around 40.
“This was the way we could keep as many positions as possible,” he says.
After all, some form of payment is often a necessity for students. Broetje says that she knows many students use their earned money to pay off rent or buy books. She says that scholarships will allow them to continue to do so.
“Here, we have still made the commitment though that students still need to receive that cash in hand because students use that for other educational expenses,” she says. “In Seattle, I think where it’s getting hard, there’s just no way that ASSP could pay everyone by an hourly wage but we also don’t want to make anyone … do those service things and put in work for free.”