Students juggle school and work to pay bills

Nicholas Jackson, a sophomore English major, said he maintains a part-time job to pay for his phone bill, car insurance and to get a little spending money, but often feels overwhelmed by the joint responsibility.

“I find it harder to find energy to commit to hours of studying,” Jackson said. “Work forces you to micromanage all of your time and if you have a strong work ethic, it’s hard to choose between putting more effort into your work or school.”

A 2008 survey of college freshmen by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute reported that 49 percent of students planned to get a job during college to meet expenses.

John Thompson, executive director of Career Services, said his office has seen about 30 student resumes in the last week, whereas the office used to receive five to 10 a week. The number of resumes posted on FrogJobs increased after the university allowed students to access the site on their personal computers instead of going to Career Services, he said.

Thompson said that while the federal government would ideally provide more funding to students to lower the cost of college, there is no real way to qualify students to receive more aid than they already receive. However, he said he does think that students benefit greatly from working while in college.

“Working gives students a competitive edge in the marketplace,” he said.

He said students should aim to find a job that relates to their major and post a resume on the FrogJobs Web site.

Although specific numbers were not available, Human Resources Information System manager Jenny Dick said the university employs more than 1,000 students with one-third of them using the work-study program.

George Kuh, director of Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research, said while students ideally shouldn’t be required to have a job in college, on-campus or off-campus employment can benefit them in the long run.

“Work can be a very powerful learning experience,” Kuh said. “It can be a great opportunity to apply what one is learning.”

Scott Williams, associate professor of German, said he is impressed by how well students juggle work and school, but feels that schoolwork sometimes takes a back seat to other priorities.

“Why should a university’s expectations be lower than that of the outside world?,” Williams said. “I see advantages to working while in college – particularly time management, but if students don’t work, they inevitably fill up the free time with clubs.”

Angelica Rodriguez, a sophomore accounting major, said working 24 hours a week helps her balance her time.

“I have to designate time to study,” Rodriguez said. “It has improved my grades.

Catelyn Gray, a sophomore social work major who works to pay for college, said while she understands why students have to work, it might not always benefit their grades.

“Working and being an RA adds extra stress to my day,” Gray said. “It’s one other thing I have to do during the day.”

Kuh, whose group conducted the National Survey of Student Engagement, found that grades are not hurt unless a student works more than 25 hours a week.

Kuh said the survey found that students who work on campus are given more opportunities to display their knowledge, are more likely to stay enrolled in college and have more access to resources that unemployed students might not have.

Scott Langston, a religion lecturer, said students who don’t have to work should see it as a gift, but they should take some financial ownership of their education.