Stimulus package will bring benefits to university students this summer

Jamison Lamp

Jamison Lamp

After the passing of the stimulus package, students will be able to reap benefits through summer work programs and broader access to grants and financial aid.

The South Dakota Department of Labor has $3 million in federal stimulus funds to help employ eligible citizens age 14 to 24.

“It is one-time dollars,” said Dawn Dovre, public information officer for the DOL. “The money is only good May 1 through Sept. 30.”

“Students will be able to gain valuable work experience,” Jeff Kjenstad, manager of the DOL Brookings field office, said.

Dovre and Kjenstad said it is very important for students to come to the local DOL office and go through an interview and other data gathering steps. After the interview step, the DOL employment officers will seek employers in fields that the applicant is interested in.

“Our goal is to serve 60 kids [in Brookings] this summer,” Kjenstad said. “If funding is available, we would love to serve more.”

Statewide, the DOL has 600 work sites helping with employment opportunities. One stipulation placed with the money is that jobs must be newly-created positions.

“It is up to the employer to come up with [a new position],” Dovre said.

The new jobs created through this money will be paid for by the DOL through stimulus funds.

“We have been very busy interviewing potential applicants for the summer program,” Kjenstad said. “As well, the employers have been very open to finding new projects for the summer months.”

Eligibility is based on federal economic requirements and takes into consideration things like previous earnings, family income and living status. Students interested in seeking eligibility requirements should look to for more explicit guidelines and an application. It is advised to fill out the application prior to meeting with an employment officer.

Further information can be found at the on-campus Career Center in the basement of Medary Commons or at the Brookings office located at 1310 Main Ave S. or call (605) 688-4350.

Along with the summer work experience, students will also have broader access on grants and financial aid, thanks to the stimulus package.

The current HOPE Tax credit has been expanded under the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Previously, students who were eligible for this credit were only able to receive $1,800. It has now been raised to $2,500.

Jay Larsen, director of financial aid, said that the money is only temporary and applies to the 2009 and 2010 school years, with those taxes being filed in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

There are requirements that must be met to qualify for the credit. Larsen said things like acceptance of “free money” – like scholarships, all federal or other grants and other financial contributions – hinder the ability to receive the tax credit.

Larsen also said that an important factor is the amount of tuition that one pays during the year.

“It is advised to pay ahead. Pay as many semesters as you are eligible for,” Larsen said. “Students can prepay for the spring semester starting in December.”

The tax credit is only available to undergraduate students.

Another change is in Pell Grants. Previously, the maximum amount received through a Pell Grant was $4,731. It will be raised to $5,350 for 2009 through 2010. Future increases are possible.

Larsen said that a student with a family contribution of $4,041 under the current system would only receive roughly $890 worth of grants. With the new system in place, someone with a family contribution of $4,617, could receive $976.

“All eligibility is determined by the FAFSA,” Larsen said.

The family income for eligibility also increased from $20,000 to $30,000.

“I would project that is at least 8 percent of students,” Larsen said.

Larsen also said that there is help for students whose family may have experienced a sudden loss of income; they just need to talk with a financial aid adviser.

For further explanation and eligibility requirements, visit