As a College Coach Finance Educator, I often speak with anxious parents willing to explore any means possible to pay for their child’s college education. How many more scholarships can we apply for? Should we refinance our house? Perhaps sell a vital organ? It surprises me, therefore, how many parents are surprisingly resistant to one financing option: student employment. Their concerns are legitimate — working students may have added stress and less time to study — but there are a myriad of benefits, financial and otherwise, that should be considered.
- Earn Money. Though skyrocketing tuition inflation has made it nearly impossible for students to truly work their way through school, they can still contribute to their educations. A campus job can pay for books, the occasional pizza, and cell phone bills (you do want them to call home, right?). With most parents’ budgets stretched to the limit, a couple thousand dollars a year can make a real difference. And, at most colleges, students can earn up to $6,000 annually without any negative effect on their financial aid.
- Organize Time. Parents worry that a job will detract from a child’s studies, but research has shown how students who work up to 15 hours per week have slightly higher GPAs than their non-working classmates. These working students, by necessity, must organize their time carefully. Lucky students can even study on-the-job. Between customers at that library circulation desk, for example, there’s nothing to do BUT read!
- Gain Experience. Even if a campus job isn’t going to lead directly into a career, it can help a student figure out what she does and doesn’t want in a future profession (i.e. I like working with people, I hate working with numbers). And though career-related work is ideal (tutoring for future teachers, lab work for future scientists), any job can help build a student’s resume, demonstrating responsibility, teamwork, and other transferable job skills.
- Get Supervision. College staff who hire students enjoy working with them and may get to know students better than professors do. They are more likely than others on campus to notice if your child is struggling. If you are concerned your child will have a tough adjustment to college, a campus job may put him in contact with an adult who can keep an eye on him, and get him help if needed.
- Make Friends. Finally, an on-campus job can help a student develop a sense of community at college, providing an avenue to make friends far from home (responsible, hard-working friends, no less!). The feeling of belonging engendered by an on-campus job is thought to be one reason part-time student workers are less likely to drop out of school than non-workers.
Though not every student should work at college — evaluate the student’s academic needs, stress level, and extracurricular commitments — every family should at least consider the option. Student employment has benefits, both tangible and intangible, that can help a child through college and beyond.
College Coach’s financial aid experts can help you navigate the process of applying for financial aid.