A study completed by Georgetown's McCourt School found that low-income college students with jobs are more likely to quit college or take longer.
Low-income college students who work are more likely to quit college or take longer to earn their degree, according to a new report.
The report was based on a study conducted by the Center on Education and the Workforce at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown. The study found that nearly 70 percent of students work while earning their undergraduate degree. Out of the 14 million working learners, 43 percent (6 million) are low-income students who work out of necessity.
But due to lower wages and skyrocketing tuition costs, it isn’t possible for most students to work their way through school anymore. In 2015, the average undergraduate working 29 hours per week earned $16,000 a year. This isn’t enough money to pay for basic living costs in most states, much less pay for college tuition.
Many students find the gap between financial aid and the actual cost of college to be too wide to bridge without the help of student loans. Some will opt to take out private student loans if they’re tapped out on federal student loans, but it’s important to weigh the risks against the benefits of taking on student loan debt before you borrow.
It’s difficult to gauge what kind of impact working has on the average college student. The experience can vary depending on the reason the student is working, the number of hours they work per week, their job, and their education and career prospects after graduation.
The research indicates that working less than 15 hours per week is beneficial for most students. Sixty-five percent of higher-income students who worked fewer than 15 hours a week were able to maintain a B average or higher.
Once students begin working more than 15 hours a week, their grades begin to suffer – and low-income students have it worse. Among low-income students, 59 percent who worked more than 15 hours a week had a C average or lower, versus higher-income students at 50 percent.
The experience of working learners also depends largely on their socioeconomic status. Working is a positive experience for most higher-income students. It gave them the opportunity to network, find mentors, and build skills that they utilized after graduation.
For low-income students, the outlook was not as positive. For one thing, low-income students who work are less likely to graduate than their peers. The data revealed that 22 percent of low-income working students earned their bachelor’s degree in six years compared to 37 percent of high-income working students.
This is partly because most low-income students work out of necessity, not to further their job prospects. As such, their job doesn’t usually correlate with their field of study so they are unable to build the same professional contacts.
Given these findings, the study recommended that schools begin building stronger connections between work and education starting during the K-12 years. Students should learn about the risks associated with dropping out of college or taking too long to graduate. And they should be informed about how different majors can affect their future income level.
The study also recommends that colleges focus on educating new students on some of these trade-offs. Working can be beneficial for many college students but the priority should always be on furthering their education. Students might also look into schools that provide the best work-study financial aid.
And colleges can also do a better job educating students on how they can correlate the work they do during college with their future career path. They can provide additional support services to low-income students and help them find relevant work experience.