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Opinion | Most students work during college, but what are their best employment options?

Scheduling flexibility is key to student success

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An employee completing a transaction with a customer. Eight out of 10 students work during college according to Anthony P. Carnevale, a researcher at Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. // Photo courtesy of Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash

Eight out of 10 students work during college and students that work 15 hours or more a week have an average grade of C or lower. 

Students should work with employers that will ensure that their education is prioritized so that they can still earn money while earning their degree. So what are the best jobs to have during college?

Krista Soria, assistant director of research and strategic partnerships at Student Experience in the Research University Consortium (North American Division), said that during COVID-19 there has been an 18% job loss from on-campus jobs and 26.5% job loss from off-campus jobs for students. 

“During these challenging times, it is more important than ever for students to find meaningful, supportive work,” Soria said.

Soria believes that students should be looking out for specific kinds of work — positions where employers understand when students need to take time off or reduce their hours for family or school reasons. 

Additionally, Soria adds that it can be helpful if they allow time to complete homework, advance leadership skills, foster wellness activities, relate to the student’s future career, offer mentorship or connect the student to peers or include tuition or scholarship benefits.

“I encourage students to think early about building skills they will need for any career and to intentionally seek job opportunities in which employers are invested in skill-building and mentorship,” Soria said.

However, Soria explains that it can be difficult for first-generation or work-class students to find those enriching employment opportunities. 

The students that work the most hours during their time in college are the underrepresented students and usually first-generation college students.

With the increase of college attendance and working college students, student employment opportunities provided by colleges have not been able to keep up. 

Soria encourages people who work in higher education to connect marginalized students to meaningful work opportunities and for colleges to work harder on developing their student employment programs that enhance leadership and professional development.

Along with an increase in college attendance, the cost of college has increased and student debt has grown.

The average loan debt for college students in the states is $30,100. Therefore, many students are seeking work to keep up with the cost. An average of 70-80% of full-time students are working both on and off-campus.  

It ranges from university to university, but at Western Washington University some of the on campus jobs include administrative support, library work, paraprofessional jobs, sport positions and technical work. 

Ciara dela Cuesta, 21, third-year studying cultural and counseling psychology at Northwest University, has been working as an admissions officer. She said that the school has worked well with her schedule. 

Off-campus jobs can also be a good option for student employment.

Bayla Forman, 22, a fourth-year studying biology at University of Washington, has worked as a water polo coach throughout her education. 

“Since I was working with kids they already had a schedule set around the school day and were understanding when I needed to prioritize school,” Forman said.

Grace Hadford, 20, attends Cascadia Community College. She works at Costco and said that they are flexible with school.

“They even have a college retention program where you can work only on holiday breaks and summers while you’re in school or just weekends,” Hadford said.

The program allows employees to take time off for school but still keep their original hire date. This way, they can gain seniority based on their total accumulated hours.

Jes Cantu, manager at Hot Topic in Bellingham, said that she hires a fair share of college students. Cantu believes that although it can be difficult with the various requirements for students, scheduling is not an issue as long as there is open communication about what they can and cannot do.

Cantu said that retail in general is a beneficial kind of job for college students because they have to learn to work with people.

“Communication is key in anything and working with people is key in anything,” Cantu said. “So, it is just so important to work with others because you are going to have people you like and don’t like and you have to be able to work towards an end goal at the end of the day.”

The work study program is a form of financial aid that connects students to part-time employment opportunities where they earn wages that they can spend on whatever they please, but it will not count towards their Expected Family Contribution calculation on their FAFSA.

There are definitely options out there for working students. It is a matter of choosing what option will work best for their needs. 

Some may argue that students should not work full time through college especially if it is affecting their grade-point average resulting in Cs. However, a study from Rutgers research center found that students who work through college often make higher salaries after they graduate.

Others may argue that students should not even work part time because it may take time away from studies, but according to research conducted by the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, the indirect relationship between work and grades revealed that working 20 hours or less in an on-campus position affects grades positively. 

Universities have the option to continue to grow in their student employment opportunities while their working student population grows. Until then, there are also many off-campus opportunities for students and the best thing that students can do is be educated about them. Most students work through college and ultimately it is up to them to make the best choices for themselves. 

Sophia Heit is an opinions writer for The Front and a third-year news/editorial journalism major. Her work focuses on local news while highlighting strong opinions within the community. You can contact Sophia at sophiaheit.thefront@gmail.com.


Sophia Heit

Sophia Heit is an opinion writer for The Front and a third-year news/editorial journalism major. Her work focuses on local news while highlighting strong opinions within the community. You can contact Sophia at sophiaheit.thefront@gmail.com. 


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