University IT Departments and Student Laborers

The benefits of hiring more student workers from among a university’s computer science department far outweigh the disadvantages. According to David Crain, Assistant Provost and Chief Information Officer at Southern Illinois University, hiring a lot of student workers is great for both the university and for the students. cites a July 2014 article for, he laid out why he thinks universities should hire more students to work in their IT departments.

Crain notes that a 2013 Educause Core Data survey found that institutions use just “’16 percent student workers as a percentage of total central IT FTE.’” Students make up 52 percent of Southern Illinois University’s central IT FTE. These students work an average of 4,780 hours per week.


Students are cheap to hire. Crain says that the pay of a student is less than 25 percent that of a full-time employee, on average. This is important for public universities that have faced shrinking state budgets. Work-study student employees are paid out of federal dollars, so their labor is essentially free, freeing up more of the IT budget.

The university also develops its own talent pool. It can offer full-time jobs to graduates who have already demonstrated their skill and work ethic. This makes it easier to find qualified IT workers, which can be difficult to do at times. Students bring innovation and skills that are not readily available in some job markets. They learn the skills in college, but they don’t necessarily move to a larger, better job market for their first jobs.

Students get experiential learning opportunities in these positions, which make them stand out from among other job candidates with little to know experience straight out of college. The IT department at SIU also partners with academic departments within the university to provide internships and class project opportunities.

Students require more supervision, training, and they come with a higher rate of turnover, but the advantages of hiring more of them are obvious for universities. Institutions of higher learning should take a look at the pool of talent they are already cultivating to provide even wider IT services across campus at a lower cost.