Is it possible for students to still work their way through college?

This weekend The New York Times took a look at what it takes to work your way through college these days.  With the cost of college exponentially higher than it used to be, it is almost impossible to earn enough in part-time jobs to pay for school and end up debt free.

The article looks mainly at two students’ struggles – one at New York University and one at Appalachian State. I am only allowed to pull a few paragraphs so please click and read the full the story for all the details.  The student in New York makes a lot more at his part-time job waiting tables for brunch, but his university is also more expensive.

The New York Times notes that no one organization tracks how many students are trying to work their way through school, but according to the National Center for Education Statistics 17 percent of full-time undergraduates of traditional age worked 20 to 34 hours a week.

Another article from The Journal of Student Financial Aid notes that “Students who work fewer than 30 hours a week (excluding federal work-study jobs) while in college were 1.4 times more likely to graduate within six years than students who spent more than 30 hours a week in a job. “ Their grades are also likely to be better as they have more time to study.

From The New York Times:

“The two [students] are part of a rare species on college campuses these days, as the nation’s collective student loan balance hits $1 trillion and continues to rise. While many students are trying to defray some of the costs, few can actually work their way through college in a normal amount of time without debt and little or no need-based financial aid unless they have an unusual combination of bravery, luck and discipline. …

“Plenty of influential people assume that teenagers can ask parents for loans if all else fails, as Mitt Romney suggested during the 2012 presidential campaign. Others recall working their way through college themselves, including Representative Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina who heads a House subcommittee on higher education and work force training. “I spent seven years getting my undergraduate degree and didn’t borrow a dime of money,” she once said at a subcommittee meeting, adding that she was bewildered, given her own experience, by tales of woe she had heard from people with $80,000 in debt.

“But students nowadays who try to work their way through college without parental support or loans face a financial challenge of a different order than the one that Ms. Foxx, 69, confronted as a University of North Carolina undergraduate more than 40 years ago. Today, a bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State, the largest university in her district, can easily cost $80,000 for a state resident, including tuition, room, board and other costs. Back in her day, the total was about $550 a year. Even with inflation, that would translate to just over $4,000 for each year it takes to earn a degree. …”

(Read the article for all the details on their jobs and finances)

I definitely have seen that many students in the college classes that I teach often have one or more jobs. I am surprised by how many hours they work, and often their work to pay for college interferes with getting their assignments done. I try to be conscious of their work schedules and try to give them enough time to complete assignments around their work schedules.

Are your young adults working their way through school? What is the amount they have to earn weekly to pay for school? Do they find that working interferes with their studies?

35 comments Add your comment

anthonydavis

February 12th, 2013
2:26 am

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A Realist

February 12th, 2013
6:40 am

Yes, it can still be done. It’s called the U.S. military. As a reservist or guardsman a college student can have access to the G.I. Bill, a monthly paycheck, and get low cost healthcare (although this is no longer a selling point like it once was since today’s “kids” are now covered by Obamacare up to age 26! )

Parent

February 12th, 2013
6:45 am

When I went to school (graduated in 1980), I worked and saved and paid my own way and graduated with only a very small student loan to pay off. But that was then and this is now.

My daughter just graduated from the same University. We were not able financially to support her. She had full HOPE and worked and STILL had significant student loan debt. HOPE pays TUITION, but not fees, room and board. Fees have risen DRAMATICALLY, often to pay for nice new student centers and football teams and such.

It could be done, but it is a lot harder to pay your own way through college.

Parent

February 12th, 2013
6:47 am

Realist – yes the military is an option, but a student should not feel like they have to put their life at risk in order to afford college. Or make the choice about killing someone.

A Realist

February 12th, 2013
7:12 am

@ Parent…. Sounds like the typical libtard/Democrat response…..contrary to popular belief not all military jobs involve making decisions to kill or being in harm’s way.

Jeff

February 12th, 2013
7:42 am

I worked full time with a job that required me to travel Monday through Thursday, and took classes on the weekends for 6 years to get my MBA. I paid for the entire thing out of pocket. Which meant I gave up a lot of other things, but my degree has opened more doors than the ones I had to leave closed from sacrifice.

Jwill77

February 12th, 2013
7:53 am

Enter your comments here

Jwill77

February 12th, 2013
8:00 am

A Realist…Seriously I am about as conservative as they come but this whole Libtard thing is getting stupid, you have no legitimate argument if you can’t type one dang sentance without insulting someone for having a different point of view as you. Also speaking as an Iraq vet, all soldiers are trained as riflemen first and their job specialty second, so yes any desk jockey in the military can be killed. I ran fiber optics in Iraq but still had convoy duty and gate duty and since IED’s are the primary cause of death everytime we hit the road we all knew we might not come back in one piece. Sorry for going off topic everyone…

Atlanta Mom

February 12th, 2013
8:00 am

My young adults have HOPE or equilvalent scholarships. We pay room and board and they are on their own for books, spending money and transportation. Were they to lose HOPE, they would pay tuition
We had our children, we expected to pay for it. We saved.
Our children are very lucky to be graduating debt free. Their graduate school opportunities are vast because they don’t have undergraduate debt.

northern neighbor

February 12th, 2013
8:10 am

In Georgia, the HOPE scholarship is great. Students have to do well academically to retain it. Several colleges, such and Georgia Tech and Southern Poly have co-op programs. It takes longer to complete school as a co-op, but the work experience and pay are great. Internships are also available and pay well, but they last only one semester.

motherjanegoose

February 12th, 2013
8:12 am

@ Atlanta Mom….exactly the same here. But my two will have some loans.

I worked 25 hours per week at Wal Mart, as my parents did not give me a dime for college. I did get $1000.00 when I graduated ..really?

My son will have ten years with his company this fall, after he graduates in May.. He has signed as a Pharmacist and has now 3 weeks paid vacation and profit sharing etc. Not many, his age, stay with the same company. They have paid part of his tuition and he has worked all the way through. He does have loans but he will have the salary to cover the payments.

My daughter has also worked. about 15 hours per week and during the summer. She is currently thinking about another job with more long term benefits, as she has none and may want to stay with a company through graduate school . Depends on where she does an internship.

Lots of students have HOPE and no job. They lose their HOPE too, even though they are not working.

I have met many people, mostly in First Class when I upgrade, that tell me they are interested in whether or not a student has worked during college. They do not want to be a $45,000 first job experience. They want to hire someone who already has work experience. I can see that point!

FCM

February 12th, 2013
8:13 am

I worked through my undergrad and like Jeff, I take classes partime to get the 2nd degree. I will when I go for the MBA as well.

If you really want the education, you can find a way to do it.

RJ

February 12th, 2013
8:20 am

It depends on where the child goes to college. You can pay your way through a two year college, and then pay at least half for the final two years working part-time. College is almost unaffordable for most. Also, some have mentioned night school. I have a degree in music, there are no night classes for that degree. I was blessed to get a full ride in scholarships. If it weren’t for that scholarship, I would still be paying off loans.

Mayhem

February 12th, 2013
8:38 am

My parents started 529 plans as soon as each grand child was born, all 5 of them ( I have 3, my brother has 2). Hubs and I contributed to our kids plans, and my brother and his now ex contributed to the plans for their kids.

DB

February 12th, 2013
8:44 am

One worked all summers long and earned money for books and incidentals for the upcoming school year, but didn’t work through the school year, for two reasons — with two majors and a minor, plus time-consuming campus activities, working during the year wan’t a practical option, and two, he was in an out-of-state college town where jobs were few and far between. He concentrated his efforts on getting through quickly and well and graduated in four years. He started out with an advantage because he had an extremely generous scholarship, but even so, he still had over $15K in student loans when he finished. His job now has a great benefit — they pay his student loan for him as long as he is employed. Sweet! The other child worked summers, too, but also had the flexibility of a job that basically told her “come work when you can” — she worked for them three or four days a month on weekends and would earn enough to cover incidental living expenses. Her major required 17-19 hours a semester, not to mention considerable outside preparation, leaving her little time to work during a semester except for those occasional days. She kept her HOPE until the benefits ran out (her major requires 132 hours, HOPE runs out after 127) and will graduate in four years, too, but even so, there will still be some student loans. She’s in a highly employable field, so she won’t have much trouble finding a job.

Yes, kids can take years to work their way through school, but I think that needs to be balanced against finishing as quickly as possible and moving on to a career-oriented job that allows you to pay off possible student loans within a reasonable time. If debt-free is the goal but it takes you 8 years to finish school, then its possible that it may be more economically feasible to finish in four or five years so that you could make better money as a graduate (assuming, of course, that a job is obtainable) and pay a loan off quickly.

We’re seeing a LOT of kids going the community college route for the first two years, especially those who don’t have a clear vision of what kind of career they want to prep for. That can be an extremely cost-effective way to manage college costs, as opposed to the traditional four-year track at one college.

LivininATL

February 12th, 2013
8:57 am

We have one child that will “work” his way through school by playing football. Hopefully, the other will do the same with baseball or basketball. Student athletes basically have a full time job training for their sport. However, they are fortunate enough to have a great deal of help (study halls, tutors, etc.) that the students working part time jobs don’t have at their finger tips.

motherjanegoose

February 12th, 2013
8:57 am

@ Mayhem..lucky you! Our kids do not even get a birthday present. I plan to be much more generous with my grandkids, if I ever have any :).

Some students we know, live at home and use their HOPE at a local college. They work part time. Seems to work for them.

Techmom

February 12th, 2013
9:07 am

Very timely subject TWG as our son will be graduating in May and we’ve just had the discussion about what he will pay and what we will pay. There is no college fund; we’ve been paying for private school all these years. It has always been our plan that if he has HOPE, we will help with living expenses (room & board and now additionally we will help with the fees and remaining tuition that HOPE doesn’t pay). He is expected to have a part time job just as he’s had for the past year and a half to pay for everything else (gas, vehicle maintenance, clothing, entertainment, meals out- fun money in my opinion).

We also told him that our agreement to help with college expenses is based on him maintaining HOPE. If he doesn’t maintain it, he’ll have to take out loans for everything. We don’t want him to have a bunch of debt when he graduates but he has to do something to help and the easiest way to do that is to maintain a B average.

My husband and I both both worked our way through college with a young child. Our parents never paid a dime of our college expenses. I kept HOPE the whole way through, my husband lost it after the 2nd year but he was then working for a company that reimbursed him for tuition. Since we barely made enough to scrape by and certainly not enough to pay for everything, we still had to take our student loans to make ends meet (we had daycare on top of everything else). And while that sucks, I also don’t regret it. Having a degree has lead to a much better life than where either of us came from and has allowed us to pay for private school and help our son with college now.

xxx

February 12th, 2013
9:07 am

The world needs ditch diggers, too.

I'm with LivininAtl...

February 12th, 2013
9:15 am

…since I “worked” my way through on an athletic scholarship – and my kids were able to finish “on time and under budget” in 4 years, too, and we paid their entire costs. Both turned out OK and got really good jobs after graduating even though they did not have to work while in school – so, if you are lucky and work hard (and I have found that the harder you work, the luckier you get), it CAN work out well both ways…

Techmom

February 12th, 2013
9:25 am

By the way, tuition in the 13 years since I graduated has more than doubled at Georgia State and obviously minimum wage (typically what most college students make at part time jobs) has not. So it is obviously much more difficult to work your way through college these days than it was even a decade ago.

jarvis

February 12th, 2013
9:39 am

Tuition has gone up way too much; many times the rate of inflation. I’m not sure how a kid could afford to work their way thru school now.

As for the GI Bill, it’s not for everyone, nor could we (the country) afford it if it was.

dixie pixie

February 12th, 2013
10:17 am

I am a GT co-op graduate. I also was a cashier at Junior’s and a teaching assistant. I had scholarships, but still had to pay what was left. I graduated owing nothing and had a small amount in savings that I used towards the purchase of my first home. However, I chose to work and save because I enjoy what I work for more than those that are “given” to me. What I have earned, no one can take away.

melshop

February 12th, 2013
10:27 am

I graduated in 1985. My college cost (tuition and boarding) was around $22,000 a year. My parents didn’t give me a dime for anything including spending money or clothes. Couldn’t qualify for Pell because my dad made too much money. I got a scholarship (average grades really, non-athlete, but found one that worked for my situation). I had a small federal student loan ($10,000) and had a small loan from the college for my senior year dorm fees (around $4,500). Then I worked two part-time jobs working around 35 hours a week. One was cleaning dorms and offices and the other was working off-campus at a church or at a local radio station on campus. Part of the money went toward tuition and part was for my spending. I invested in a sewing machine and made most of my own clothes, which saved hundreds of dollars. I also got paid by other students to sew, hem etc. for them and to type their papers. (I could type 70wpm). I carried 20 to 21 hours every semester. I clepped out of my freshman year because I had high ACT scores and graduated in 3 years. I took an internship my senior year to fulfill a double minor and took additional courses by mail (no online then) to fulfill my major credits while an intern. During that time as an intern, I also worked at Sears at the mall about 30 hours a week to pay for my car, car insurance, gas, groceries and spending money. My townhouse was included in the internship. In the summers between semesters, I worked two or three jobs concurrently (supermarket, radio station, temp jobs with an agency and babysitting). I developed the babysitting into a full-time business. Netted more than $3,000 from that alone one summer. All of that went back into my college education. The loans I hadn’t paid off by the time I graduated, I paid over the next 10 years ($100 a month total) which gave me time to build my career. They did get paid off about the time I hit middle management. It can be done, but doing it requires a lot of dedication, hard work and creativity to figure out how.

Sandra Moore

February 12th, 2013
12:09 pm

RJ

February 12th, 2013
12:22 pm

Parents should be aware that students are no longer able to get their own loans unless they can show they earn around $18,000. The parents must get the loans. I was shocked when I found this out.

Leigh

February 12th, 2013
12:25 pm

I finished college in 2004 with no debt. I worked full time (retail) and went to school full time. I graduated with honors. It can be done. Just a lot of kids are too lazy and feel entitled.

Leigh

February 12th, 2013
12:26 pm

And that was at a private college…….

Mayhem

February 12th, 2013
12:57 pm

My parents paid for my college, and they also paid for my brother’s college. They didn’t want us working, but wanted us to concentrate on our studies. They even gave us a monthly spending allowance while we were away at school.

I had already been accepted to an in-state school, then we moved here to Georgia the summer before I was to go to college. My parents didn’t pay out of state tutition, since I had already been accepted as an in-state student. My brother went to college here in Georgia.

Not A Mom

February 12th, 2013
2:12 pm

I went to UGA from Sept 1995- March 1998 (2.5 years!) and got my BA degree. I worked 20 hours a week the entire time and graduated with a 3.4 GPA. I worked the entire time I got my first graduate degree (school 1/2 time and work full time). I’m doing my second graduate degree now and I’m going full time and working full time. It’s absolutely possible.

I get so frustrated to hear that college students can’t manage to work and do their homework. Give me a break. They just need to manage their time better.

jarvis

February 12th, 2013
2:33 pm

Tuition by itself at UGA runs nearly $12K per year now. Where were your part-time jobs? I think I was making about $12K after tax and deductions my first year out of school.

jmb

February 12th, 2013
3:31 pm

My oldest daughter went to work at 16 and when she graduated she continued to work while going to college. Last year she joined the army and now she’s taking classes paid for by the military. She was able to pay back all her loans and able to buy a new car since being in the Army so I have to say, it’s been great for her. They pay their housing, medical, school and she was able to get her car at 2% through them. I absolutely agree the military is a great option for young folks these days. It’s not for everyone but definately an option.

Marsh

February 13th, 2013
9:35 am

It can be done. Kids these days..

And I want to say that Jwill77 deserves a standing ovation.

Ann

February 13th, 2013
2:48 pm

I second the standing ovation for Jwill77! Well said.

@ A Realist – There are quite a lot of liberals, Democrats and moderates proudly serving in the U.S. military. Enlisted soldiers in the Army describe themselves as follows:
32 percent of the Army’s enlisted soldiers consider themselves conservative,
23 percent identify as liberal and
45 percent are self-described moderate

yasir

February 16th, 2013
3:15 pm

Here is a helpful site for students looking for jobs. check this out: http://www.hirestarts.com