Report: Balancing Work and Learning is a Struggle for Low-Income Students

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Nearly 70 percent of college students work while enrolled in school, but the types of jobs they hold and the hours they work vary based on their socioeconomic status, according to a recent report from Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce (CEW).

“When they choose to work…higher-income students have access to the best jobs and work experience, such as internships and assistantships,” according to a CEW press release. “Low-income students are more likely than higher-income students to work in food service, sales, and administrative support jobs while enrolled. Work experience in these jobs provides basic life skills like conscientiousness and teamwork, but does not provide the deeper technical and general skills that foreshadow good career entry-level jobs.”

And in many cases, the demands of these positions exacerbate the challenges students face in the classroom.

Low-income students who are employed during college typically work longer hours and receive lower grades than their higher-income peers, data shows. In addition, they are less likely to complete their degree, with only 22 percent of low-income working learners completing a bachelor’s degree within six years.

Report authors say the findings show that colleges must find ways to connect students with jobs that support their academic ambitions.

“Promoting policies and practices that strengthen the connections between education and work will help working learners of all backgrounds move to and through college on their way to a successful career and, at minimum, a middle-class life,” report offers note.

Read the full report.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org. 

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