Problem of Working Students

Problem of Working Students

A Review of Research Literature on College Students and Work  

by Tina Tuttle, with Jeff McKinney & Melanie Rago

College enrollments have continued on an upward climb for decades, as more and
more people recognize the value of a college education, especially the tangible value
of the diploma in the marketplace. The past few decades have witnessed growing
diversity in higher education, but with that diversity we also see dramatic changes in
how students are funding their college educations. Adult degree seekers, first-generation students, students of color, and students from low-income backgrounds
have become a mainstay in the growing mix in college today. This new mix chal-lenges the persistent image of the of the “traditional,” direct-from-high school, white,
middle-class college student on a residential campus, who may work part time, is
dependent on parents, and graduates within four years. In fact this picture represents
less than 27% of college students today (Choy 2002).  

Today’s college students face a complex set of dilemmas about whether to attend
college, where to attend, how to pay, how much to work, how many jobs to take,
how to pay credit card bills and car payments, how to juggle family and children,
and how to balance these competing priorities while in school.  

The amount of time students spend working has been of increasing concern for the
educators that serve them and, in some instances, the students themselves. Recent
data would indicate that 80% of American undergraduates worked while attending
college in 1999-2000 (King, 2003).This represents an 8% increase over the class less
than a decade previously, among whom 72% worked (Cuccaro-Alamin & Choy,
1998). Further, there appears to be a strong body of literature that points to the posi-tive effects of not working versus working while attending college (King, 2002; Pas

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