They Work Hard for Their (College) Money

Anna Williams

college studentsThe latest approach to tackling ever-rising tution rates? Putting students to work.

It’s certainly not a new idea, but now it’s becoming a requirement at a growing number of universities, the AP reports.

The arrangement—now officially in place at seven, mostly small, schools across the country, including Sterling College in Vermont and Berea College in Kentucky—obligates all students to hold campus jobs, in everything from landscaping to public relations.

The benefit of these “work colleges” is two-fold: Not only are students more easily able to afford college—and end up graduating with fewer loans—but they also gain real-world experience and the responsibility that comes with holding down a job.

Of course, many students at other schools already participate in need-based federal work-study programs, or land their own part-time positions off campus, but “earning while learning” might be more appealing to students for a number of reasons.

For one, “It does not differentiate between those that can afford to pay for their education, [and] those that must work to cover their educational costs. And that’s a big deal,” Robin Taffler, executive director of the Work Colleges Consortium, told the AP. “So this essentially levels the playing field because everybody is doing a job,” she said.

At the same time, 75% of these graduates say that “earning while learning” helped prep them for their future careers, according to the Work Colleges Consortium. And an even higher number—84%—said it helped them mingle with students of different backgrounds and interests.

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And don’t forget about the lightened loan burden: The average student debt for those who graduated from a Work College in 2010 was just $12,121—compared to $21,740 for those who graduated from a traditional public school, and $27,710 for alumni of private nonprofit colleges.

What do you think? Are work colleges a smart answer to rising student debt?

  • Kitsu

    This is a wonderful idea, and should be mandatory for all colleges, because it would mean that, not only do the students choosing to work have work, but the students that otherwise wouldn’t be working are gaining that valuable insight, plus those of us with poor job prospects have something to bolster us. I myself am an unemployed student who is actively looking for a job in my field (computer programming) for when I get out of school, but I would have liked to have a job during it instead of relying solely on financial aid.