Majority of Students Turn to Jobs to Cover Surging College Costs

By Sarah Jackson on October 31, 2017

Image by Element5 Digital via Unsplash

Massive growth in college tuition and related fees has many students taking on jobs to shoulder the costs.

Over the past 25 years, more than 70 percent of students have held jobs while enrolled in college, according to “Learning While Earning: The New Normal,” a 2015 study conducted by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

N.Y.U. student Jerusalem Adams-Shepard, who works at the university’s Office of Student Life, puts her earnings towards the daily cost of living in the city.

“I spend a lot of money on food,” she said. “That’s just so I can have healthier options than what’s in the dining halls. And I spend a lot of money on transportation as well.”

Since her income from 11 hours of work a week barely leaves a dent in her college expenses, Adams-Shepard would appreciate a more generous work-study allotment.

“If it were up to me, I would want to work more, but that’s just because I like being comfortable,” she said. “I like having enough, but then also more than enough in case emergencies happen. I also want enough to save, which I currently don’t have right now.”

Petra Chiabi, who also attends N.Y.U., works at Urban Outfitters and concurs that earnings from her job do not pull much weight in terms of paying for college.

“I’ve taken out loans for housing and tuition,” Chiabi said. “When it comes to work, I only expect it to pay for food, pocket money, and textbooks at the beginning of the semester. It may not seem like much, but the expenses of attending a New York City university do pile up, and my job helps me deal with that.”

Results from a 2016 study published by the College Board confirm Chiabi’s concerns: the tuition and fees of a private nonprofit four-year university, such as N.Y.U., rose 13 percent between 2011 and 2016 even after adjusting for inflation.

Image by kschneider2991 via Pixabay

Cost increases like these make Adams-Shepard grateful that her financial situation relieves her job of some of the pressure of covering her college expenses.

“I am really fortunate to have a pretty thorough financial aid package, so any money I receive that’s supplemental to work-study or financial aid goes directly to paying for university,” she said. “I’m really lucky to have such a nice job that pays pretty well. I just have a lot of different circumstances that make this job more supplementary than an absolute necessity.”

Even if the ever-rising cost of college means students must juggle jobs and school in the meantime, Chiabi believes students’ education will ultimately be worth it.

“It’s difficult when you let it overwhelm you,” Chiabi said. “But you have to remember that you’re a student first, and education is the greatest investment you can make.”

Hi there! My name is Sarah, and I'm majoring in Journalism and English at NYU. In my spare time, I like to play the violin, explore the city, and discover more indie rock bands.

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