Working for an education

Studies have recently confirmed what University students have known all along: Students are working and in record numbers. Tuition is rising, housing costs are going up, cell phones and automobiles are ingrained into student culture at the University and loans are not appealing or adequate for most students. To pay for this, working is the obvious and easiest way to get money. However, many students must make unfortunate sacrifices – choices between needs and goals that ultimately hinder their quality of living, academic performance and their lives after graduation.

Students here work more than students at other schools do. A voluntary survey of incoming freshman showed students expect to rely on a part-time job 21 percent more than students at other four-year colleges. This would be fine if students were working for spending money; unfortunately, jobs have become survival money for most. Many also work to avoid loans. Many students don’t have parental support, and the money they earned in high school will not go a long way on our campus toward paying for even basic necessities such as class, books and housing. It is always a problem for any university when school is no longer a student’s top priority. It is made even worse by the number of students who have decided to work to make more money to cover costs and then end up working even more to support the lifestyle they have made for themselves.

Some students become so dependent on their income from work that dropping out of school seems to be the only solution to continue their lifestyle, and to most, working is at least as important as school. Because of this, the University is the only Big Ten institution to underperform in its own six-year graduation rate, with only 51 percent of students graduating in six years. Workloads are causing this, and the equation is simple: Working more equals less time for classes, which equals fewer credits taken and more time needed to complete school.

The first solution relies on the students themselves – cut back on spending now. Toss the cell phone, take the bus, shop the sale racks, cut back on your workload and challenge yourself with at least 15 credits per semester. Students should not spend their time with a pile of homework on the desk and a new DVD player in the living room while worrying about empty cupboards. Though school is not supposed to be easy, the challenges that many face in deciding how to spend their money is clearly not an experience the University wants its students to have. The stress from wondering how you pay for things can also have a negative effect on schoolwork.

Secondly, lawmakers and school officials must do their part. They must realize that a 13.8 percent tuition hike will not be easy for students to absorb. Administrators need to look at the dismal numbers and realize that the students are hurting their college experiences as well as their futures. Lower tuition and larger loans with lower interest that does not start accruing interest until graduation are small ways the University can help its students. Offering more reasonably priced housing options can also deter a student’s need for work.

Many factors go into a student’s decision to work. Yet it is clearly more beneficial for students to stay in school, graduate on time and then join the real world. Having a job is not necessarily a bad experience for students – it can offer some interesting challenges and rewards. The problem is when a job takes over every aspect of a student’s life. Some might say it’s the price of knowledge, but it shouldn’t have to be.