Friday, May 12, 2006

Working Students

70-80 percent of students who are enrolled work at the same time. Those who do average 30 hours a week. About 1/4 work full time.

Wow! I always knew that my students worked, but I didn't realize how much. This is a striking problem for us. How can students who work that much have a chance to do the kind of clockwork necessary to graduate with a set of skills that are worthy of a bachelors?

This is directly related to our continuing discussions about standards and retention. What kinds of standards can these students attain when they have so little time for college? If I really expect my students to do 2 hours of work outside of class for one in, where would they conceivably find the time?

No wonder students are taking so long to graduate and so few of them do! For those who are dependent on their jobs for tuition, college must look something like a vicious cycle-- pay more, work more, go deeper into debt while education becomes less important.

Here is the study itself
, which is a 22 page PDF.
ACE | Center for Policy Analysis


Anonymous said...

I always knew that my students worked, but I didn't realize how much. This is a striking problem for us.

I've heard that from several professors, and it strikes me as naive. Even with help from my parents, assistance from a wealthy relative, work up to and sometimes over 25 hours a week (40+ in the summer), and cashing in some investments I still had to take out loans for my last semester. Does it affect my academic performance? For me not really, but I could be the exception. What it does do is add more stress and shorten my time for extracurricular activates. Do I wish that I could focus solely on school and not have to worry about finding a source of income? Certainly. But today for most students that isn't an option. It's a sort of Catch-22. You have to work harder for a degree and at the same time a B.S. Degree won't take you as far as it used to. Adding to the stress of the whole operation the job market today quite frankly sucks for my chosen field. But the Wisconsin tax payers have decided that they would rather pay less in favor of sacrificing our once great education system. Thanks baby-boom generation.

Janine said...

I would have to agree with anonymous that it is rather naive to think that students don't work that much. I'm a non-trad. student and so I do work 40+ hours in addition to holding down 9 credits a semester. How do you think people pay for college? Grants and scholarships cover very little of the expected tuition and loans aren't the solution either.

Does it affect performance? No, I actually think that it makes better students and managers because we have to learn to prioritize everything in our life.

Some food for thought ---- this may also be the reason that so much partying does happen on campus ---- free time is rather limited with work / school. So when it does come it is taken advantage of.

lammers said...

For many students, this really is a major impediment to receiving a good education. They simply are unable to focus on their studies wholeheartedly. College is not something that can be done in one's spare time; getting maximum benefit requires total immersion. Yet if one does immerse totally, he or she cannot afford to enroll. Catch-22.

I do not know what has changed in the last 30 years. I, scion of a blue-collar high-school-graduate family, was able to attend a state college in the Midwest without loans, though it did wipe out my savings acct. from the previous 8 yrs. I only worked minor jobs (10-15 hr/wk) for spending money. It seemed as though that was the norm there and then. Whatever has changed that has made those sorts of students scarce is a bad thing, and we should work very hard to undo it.

A real scandal is work study. SO many students on this campus qualify, but there are few jobs available because departments must now pay a larger proportion of their pay.

Affordable college education (so that anyone can try) coupled with rigorous standards (so that the degree *means* something) is in EVERYONE's best interest in this country.

Janine said...

I agree wholeheartedly. It would be beneficial to everyone to be able to have students who can concentrate only on their degree instead of having to worry about a 3/4 - full time job.

The real question is, how do we get there? It isn't good enough to say that we have to lower tuition, because, in doing so we would have to lower salaries meaning less equipt professors and staff. So, the real question is - how do we get to where everyone (who has the ambition to) can afford a college education?

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with Janine. Working more made me a worse student. I had the desire to be a good student, absolutely, but it is very difficult to manage even 6 credits when you work. I had one small child when I went back to school, and worked most of that time. I used to fail one of my classes each of two. I found that assignments snuck up on me, that sometimes class time interfered with work times, and that often after work I was too tired to even think about school, let alone do assignments then. I left far too many things until the last second, and I know it was because I was working so much. How do I know this? This semester I hardly worked at all. I now have two small children and have had a much better semester. It is not simply about "prioritizing" it's the fact that work often makes us unable to live up to our potential. I am someone who graduated from high school with high honors, so I'm no dummy or stranger to hard work, but when you work, it's very difficult to do your best in college...and this is the time to do your best.

For me, I have found that not working has been a solution. College is work in and of itself and it is too bad that we don't vote and force our government to stop cutting aid and other programs that make college affordable. No one can simply go on grants anymore, and working through high school presents problems of its own. College is a time to reflect, and that is difficult when a 40 hour per week job is taking up so much brain space.

Lake Winneblogo said...

I just posted above about Well's commitment to the liberal arts. These two topics are deeply intertwined.

College is supposed to be about the life of the mind. Part of that is having the luxury of being able to ponder the hard questions that humanity faces. If you are forced to work 40 hours a week, on top of everything else, you are never able to fully partake in the intellectual life that college is supposed to be about.

Beyond simply supporting a wide-range of class offerings, supporting the liberal arts should be about making it financially possible to have time to reflect.

Maybe a better PR campaign will help us, but it has to be supported by real monetary committment for students to benefit fully from what we have to offer!