A New View On Work/School Balance

From Inside Higher Ed:

A new study suggests that the cliché of a full-time college student working a low-wage job to pay her tuition and getting lower grades than she’d have if she wasn’t working is more fiction than fact.

If the student works fewer than 20 hours a week, she may, in fact, have a higher grade point average than her jobless peers and be spending her paychecks on “beer money” or other non-tuition expenses.

The study, which is here (PDF), points to the sad fact that working to pay for school simply isn’t an option anymore, and students understand this:

A $5,000 reduction in parental contributions to tuition, they discovered, resulted in students at four-year colleges taking on an additional three hours of work each week. A student making $10 an hour (generous considering that many student jobs pay minimum wage or slightly more) would, over the course of a year, earn an additional $1,560 by working those extra three hours — not nearly enough to compensate for smaller parental contributions.

For students at four-year institutions, the relationship between net price of schooling and hours worked was statistically insignificant, meaning that higher costs did not compel students to work more. Among students at two-year colleges, an increase in tuition by one standard deviation resulted in an additional two-and-a-half hours of work each week, not enough to pay the difference.

It’s not a fair system.

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Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.