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Should students work while in college?

I recently heard a “Listening In” podcast where a college president told a story of a student’s parents calling him about their child’s on-campus job. They were telling their child to quit the job and just study. I was appalled.

Here’s a quote from my “Say No! To College Debt” book, “students who work jobs while going to college are typically better performers in the classroom and get better grades.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the breaking point is 20 hours per week. Jobs beyond 20-hours-per-week distract from studies, while jobs under that help the student to learn discipline. As a college professor, I can tell you that many of my students needed to learn discipline, particularly those I had when I taught on campus.

I would ask a couple of questions of parents who don’t want their student to work. First, “When are you going to let your child grow up?” Most college students are at least 18, which is the legal age of majority in most US states. They are adults and should be acting like adults.

The second question is, “Who is making the decisions here?” Part of acting like adults is taking responsibility for themselves and not having their parents call the school to tell the school how to care for their child.

Working while in school also starts a resume for when the student enters the workforce and has to compete for scarce jobs. When a company hires a new college graduate, they’re looking for differentiations between the hordes of newly minted future employees. The resume with experience will have a leg up.

This may sound harsh, but I have had to deal with students who make their own lives more difficult with their senses of entitlement. Getting a job and building up a work history is a good thing for any college student. Even the small amount that they may earn is still that much less debt that they’ll have to pay off when they graduate.

Thanks for reading.


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