1 in 4 Working Students Skip Class Due to Job, College Employment Survey Shows

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With tuition costs steadily on the rise, many college students are juggling a part-time job along with their studies. And according to a new Student Loan Hero survey, a large segment of working college students are spending more time working than they are studying.

Not only does work seem to be cutting into valuable study time, but it’s also preventing many students from participating in extracurriculars or finding time to exercise. Based on our survey of over 1,000 full-time college students, here’s what we uncovered.

Key findings:

  • 65% of full-time college students also work. Students with loans are more likely to hold a job than those without.
  • Nearly 25% of working students work more than 20 hours per week, while only 16% study more than 20 hours per week. And 1 in 4 of them have skipped class to go to work.
  • More than half of working students (51%) say they don’t have time to participate in extracurriculars, and 67% say their job makes it hard to find time to exercise.
  • Although indebted students are more likely to work than their debt-free counterparts, 50% of students say they’d work even if they didn’t have to.

Majority of students work while studying full-time

A public four-year college costs in-state students an average $10,440 per year (or $26,820 for out-of-state students), while a private college typically runs $36,880 annually. Given the high prices, it’s not surprising that many students carve time out of their busy schedules to make money.

According to our survey, 65% of full-time college students are working while taking a full course load. As for the reasons to work, 64% use at least some of their pay for living expenses, while 55% work for spending money, and 52% cite the need to pay tuition.

In terms of where students are finding jobs, 56% said they work off-campus, 25% work on campus through a work-study program, and another 20% have non-work-study positions at their schools.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, those with student loans were more likely to also have a job (72% of this group worked) than were those without loans (54% of whom worked). Note that a part-time job is one way to limit how much student debt you take on.

Students at 4-year public schools most likely to work

How likely a given student was to work more than 20 hours a week differed based on what kind of school they attended — public vs. private and two-year vs. four-year.

While private university students were slightly more likely to have a job than their public-school peers (70% vs 66%), those at public colleges were more than twice as likely to put in 20 hours or more a week (25% vs 12% at private schools).

And an even larger proportion of students at two-year institutions said they spent more than 20 hours a week on the job — 27%, compared to 22% of all students at four-year institutions. That said, those attending four-year schools were slightly more likely to have some kind of job, with 67% employed vs, 62% of those attending two-year schools.

Work drains time from studies, extracurriculars and exercise

Balancing full-time study with a job is no easy feat, and some college students are feeling the squeeze. About 1 in 4 working students said their job is more stressful than their classes, and 1 in 5 said it interferes with studying most or all of the time.

More than half of the surveyed students said their employment schedule changes weekly — a common situation for the type of wage jobs taken by many college students — and this adds to the time management challenge. For many, work demands more time than study, as nearly 25% of respondents said they work more than 20 hours a week, but only 16% said they spend that much time studying.

Likewise, 1 in 4 reported skipping class to go to work. Those with student loans are more likely to do this than those classmates without, with about 30% borrowers cutting class for their job, compared to 16% of those without loans.

Balancing employment and work also leaves little time for everything else. For example, 51% of student workers said they don’t have enough time to take part in extracurricular activities, and 67% said their job makes it hard to find time to exercise.

49% of students say they’d work even if they didn’t have to

Despite having to deal with the time crunch that comes with a college job, many students say they’d work even if they didn’t need to.

Among respondents, nearly 50% said they might work regardless of their financial needs. This number was especially high among female students (53%), compared to their male counterparts (46%).

And while majorities of working students cited the need to earn money for tuition (52%) and general living costs (64%), some also pointed to gaining work experience (34%), earning extra spending money (55%) and even just the enjoyment of their job (22%).

Is working in college right for you?

Working in college brings some benefits, but it can also pose major challenges.

On one hand, working a part-time job can earn you money, which you can use to pay for living expenses or even partially cover tuition and fees. You might even be able to afford in-school student loan payments that can save you significant interest costs on your loan.

Plus, you might gain valuable work experience, whether you work on-campus with a professor or make connections at a company off-campus. Or maybe your part-time jobs will reveal what you don’t want to do after college and give you greater clarity on your long-term goals.

On the flip side, working during college could take up a significant amount of time, distracting from your studies, causing a lot of stress, and potentially affecting your grades. Plus, you might end up with an employer who isn’t supportive of your academic schedule or doesn’t pay you enough to make your time worth it.

In this case, you might want to look for a more flexible part-time job or side hustle that compensates you better. If you find the right situation, a part-time job could be a big financial help during college, as long as you’re still able to make the most of your education and stay on track toward receiving your degree.

Published in News & Policy, Press