Freshman pre-biology major Holly Hale is a full-time student who works 30 hours a week, volunteers her time downtown at a local clinic and works with kids in a chemistry outreach program, all while trying to save time for as much of a social life as she can.
For many other students working like Hale, finding time to focus on school can be a hassle.
“You definitely have to split your time between focusing on getting good grades and paying for those grades,” she said. “I go to school for a full day and then I have work until midnight. I come home exhausted and then have to start my homework, and sometimes it feels like a last priority. I mean, it really takes it out of you.”
Full-time students who work more than 25 hours a week are in danger of hurting their academics and college experience, according to a report released by California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG), the California State Student Association (CSSA), and the University of California Student Association (UCSA). The report, “At What Cost? The Price the Working Students Pay for a College Education,” is based on data collected from a Department of Education National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey and claims that working over 25 hours per week leads to a negative impact on students’ grades.
The report links an increase in student employment with growing student fees, CSSA Chairperson Laura Kerr said.
“Students have a lot of things on their plate,” she said. “If you make education less affordable, you are going to have an impact on their ability to access and the quality of education they have received upon graduation.”
While the study does not show a direct link between GPA and the amount of hours that a student spends working, it does illustrate how increasing student fees can force more students to get jobs. The more hours students work, the more they are forced to compromise their education, Kerr said.
“It’s true the state hasn’t raised student fees in about 10 years, and if they do raise student fees, it’s easy to argue that everyone is going to drop out of school and not get a higher education,” Kerr said. “But what’s really true is that students are really going to have to work if they want a quality education.”
Despite the report’s claims that jobs limit a student’s educational involvement, some students argue that working improves their college experience and better prepares them for life after college.
Junior psychology major Mandy McVay, who works about 20 hours a week at Nicoletti’s said working on campus helps her budget her time more effectively.
“I think that if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t bother coming to campus,” she said. “Sure, it sucks to work, but I guess it’s important to get used to it, so that when I graduate I won’t be thrown out into the job force without any experience and understanding of what it’s like to hold down a job.”
Although many students feel that working improves the quality of their college experience, the costs of working can sometimes cut into a student’s ability to devote time to academics, said sophomore law and society and communications major Joanne Tan.
“I work about 10 hours a week and I can still see work taking time away from my studying, definitely,” she said. “I have to take into account how many hours I work and if I have a big project or something, I’ll get people to work my shift so that I can have a little extra time.”
Still, with the growing price of a higher education, additional sources of income often become necessary for students if they want to succeed, said sophomore communications major Allison Truett, who works over 30 hours per week.
“I actually think that it makes me appreciate school more,” Truett said. “I want to work harder at getting good grades basically because I’m paying for it. I mean, I have a 3.8 [GPA] and I think that proves that working hard outside school can drive you to work just as hard at your education.”