Work life balance: Cost of college means students need to work

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In today’s economic environment, working while attending school is a tight balancing act and for many students is often not a choice but a necessity.The cost of college is going up every year, scholarships are limited, and assistance from the financial aid office goes only so far. Students need to know how to pay for college, learn work-life balance, practice good study techniques and compare affordability of colleges to find the right match for them.

Benefits of working while in college

“Studies have long shown that working a few hours during college improves academic performance,” says Laura Perna, a University of Pennsylvania professor  and 2010 editor of Understanding the Working College Student — as quoted by Eric Adler and Mará Rose Williams in “Students scramble to make college work,” for The Kansas City Star, March 9, 2013. Studies show that students who are good workers outside college are good workers in the classroom as well. Benefits include:

  • Maturity
  • Independence
  • Diligence
  • Good time-management skills

However, according to Perna, this information pertains to “traditional students” who are age 18 to 24, work only 10 to 15 hours per week and whose parents are paying for college. And, as Adler and Williams point out, today some students are working 20 to 30 hours a week or longer to afford mounting college tuition costs and living expenses. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 40 percent of full-time students hold regular jobs and 7 percent work full time.

Study tips for students who work

Here are some study tips to achieve a proper balance between a job and school work:

  • Make a daily schedule of your class hours, work hours, meals and errands, and time for studying.
  • List these tasks in order of priority, and know what part of the day you’re most productive; are you a late nighter or an early riser?
  • Stick to the schedule, set goals and avoid procrastination.
  • Once you complete a task, cross it off your list.
  • Utilize spare minutes to study or review material, such as when you’re waiting for class to begin or waiting in line.
  • Make sure you get at least six hours of sleep. Sleep enhances memory of the material you just studied and keeps your body healthy and functioning properly.

College Scorecard

When students need to work to afford college, they want to make sure they are choosing a school that is the right fit. To make the decision process easier, the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center developed the College Scorecard. The Scorecard offers information on the affordability and value of colleges and universities in the United States based on searchable criteria including:

  • Undergraduate enrollment
  • Cost
  • Graduation rate
  • Loan default rate
  • Median borrowing
  • Average monthly payments
  • Employment rate after graduation

Other criteria include school location, enrollment size, programs and degrees offered, campus settings, and distance learning options. With the goal of improving transparency and accountability, the Scorecard offers comparisons based on apples-to-apples criteria so students can select an affordable college or university.

Initiatives to improve affordability

The College Scorecard is one initiative in a move toward college affordability that President Obama stressed in his 2012 State of the Union address. “In the speech, Obama outlined plans to double the number of college work-study slots, reduce student loan interest rates, extend college tuition tax credits and help community colleges become regional career centers,” reported Charles Dervarics in “Obama Proposes Multiple New College Initiatives for 2012,” in the Feb. 16, 2012 issue of Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

According to Dervarics, Obama has also proposed a new college “Race to the Top” competition and revamping of student aid formulas to reward colleges with low tuition and strong graduation records. President Obama is also pushing to change the formula for the awarding of campus-based student aid, which includes the work-study program, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and the Perkins Loan programs, to provide more money to colleges that keep tuition low and graduate a large share of Pell Grant recipients.

2 replies
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