College students who also work have advantages other kids don’t, says LSU expert
Employment is more than a way for students to make money, according to LSU AgCenter family economics professor Dr. Jeanette Tucker.
It also can foster a sense of self-worth, develop a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, enable a contribution to society and cultivate a sense of professional identity.
Listing other advantages, the family economist says employment:
•Develops basic job skills (human capital) and interpersonal skills for future work and community involvement.
•Helps students decide what they want to do or not do for a career.
•Enhances career possibilities (even if not paid).
•Builds resumés that are viewed positively by prospective employers.
•Develops contacts for future employment (networking and reference).
•Makes college more affordable even though schooling might take more years to complete.
•Improves time and energy management skills (warning: don’t substitute work for study).
•Makes study more palatable.
When students work part time, employers often do not have the financial capability to provide them with traditional health, medical and retirement benefits. Employers will "pay" with in-kind service income.
Tucker explains that service income includes free or reduced-cost meals, coffee, employee discounts on purchases or privileges such as tanning booth or fitness center use.
She says most college students take advantage of such service income, but few actually recognize the value.
About half of current undergraduates work to finance school, according to the family economist, adding that a Purdue University study found that 35 percent of students thought employment was a positive influence on grades because they had to manage their time better, and 27 percent thought employment reduced their grades because of time constraints.
Lack of time for refresher courses or tutoring was reported by 37 percent. Taking fewer classes because of employment was reported by 20 percent.
Some students, by working, receive short-term benefits at long-term costs (less salary in the long run), but others are able to obtain a college degree that gives future rewards and less debt in the future.
"When students work more than 20 hours per week, their responsibilities for studies and classroom performance are often jeopardized," Tucker said.
Some students report they wish they had taken more opportunities for social development, the arts, recreation, enrichment activities or general education.
Tucker encourages students to avoid being "penny-wise but pound-foolish," which means working to meet current wants but missing opportunities, enjoyment and long-term benefits.
Some students may need to be reminded that studying is more important than a part-time job.
The family economist says the main problem is that requirements for work and study are unlimited, but time resources are limited.
She says the solution, therefore, is to be more efficient and effective. Students should strive to be organized and use small bits of time.
"One’s greatest investment in life is education," Tucker said, adding, "Although one may have to make sacrifices to attain it, a degree cannot be stolen, lost or destroyed as material investments can."
She said students and parents should consider both the pros and cons of student employment before the decision to work or not to work is made.
For more information, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com or contact an agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.
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