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A new strategic initiative at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh seeks to address challenges posed by $13.6 million in budget shortfalls, resulting in increased tuition and state-mandated furloughs. The Student Titan Employment Program (STEP) will provide up to $500,000 in additional, one-time funds to bolster student wages, stipends and assistantships, assisting students who may have difficulty finding other employment or who may be among the 250 UW Oshkosh students who did not receive Wisconsin Higher Education Grants.

STEP will offer students quality educational experiences while providing faculty and staff members with needed assistance in areas such as media services, student-faculty research, supplemental instruction, library assistance, instructional technology and academic computing support, and Web page development and maintenance.

“STEP will be used to maximize the educational experience of students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, to further the University’s mission to meet the knowledge needs of individuals and communities,” said Chancellor Richard H. Wells. “The program will allow students to engage in educationally purposeful activities and to interact with faculty, academic and classified staff, and peers in substantive ways as student workers. Thanks to our outstanding tradition of strategic and operational planning, we have been able to meet challenges posed by the difficult economy and tap into our strategic initiatives and “rainy day fund” to create innovative programs that help our students, as well as the faculty and staff.”

The student workers will be provided to departments and units that propose innovative opportunities that will enhance the educational experience. Students will benefit by earning money while working on unique projects while strapped departments and units will benefit from having student assistants.

“The University has a long tradition of providing student employment opportunities thanks to grants and contract awards by our talented faculty and staff and auxiliary funds through Residence Life,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Petra Roter. Approximately 1,500 student employees on campus earn about $4.8 million annually with an average compensation of $3,200, equivalent to cover all tuition, fees and book costs for one semester. The new funds should allow at least 150 more students to have campus employment opportunities.

The unique effort is not the first the University has taken to help students weather the economic downturn, which hinders many students’ ability to face increasing costs. Last fall, UW Oshkosh created a Student Financial Emergency Response Team to assist students experiencing serious unexpected financial difficulties. The Team works with students to mobilize resources for those who may have experienced a financial emergency or crisis that may adversely affect their ability to continue with their academic plan.

Because of the successful completion of raising matching funds for the new academic building, the UW Oshkosh Foundation’s pride.purpose.promise campaign is now able to put all its attention on scholarships and high-impact learning opportunities. Several donors, including the founders of the Anne Hillebrand Scholarship, have topped up their funds to ensure funding for scholarship recipients.

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