Working Your Way Through School

By Jack Paciotti
For Unwind magazine

It has been a well-documented that college tuition has risen sharply over the past few decades, reaching $14,860.29 for out-of-state students at the University of Maryland, according to the university website. While past generations routinely worked summer jobs in order to pay their tuition, millennials are facing a greater challenge.

While the average student in 1979 could work 182 hours, the equivalent of a part-time summer job, to pay for a year’s tuition, it took 991 hours, or a full-time job for half the year, to accomplish the same in 2013, according to a study by Randy Olson, a graduate student at Michigan State University.

That’s not accounting for the cost of room and board, either.

Learn some grown-up tips before you graduate. Photo by Gillian Vesely/Unwind
Learn some grown-up tips before you graduate. Photo by Gillian Vesely/Unwind

Emily Reimal, a junior criminology and criminal justice major originally from Southern California, has two part-time jobs to cover her housing, tuition and everyday expenses. Despite having a Pell Grant, three loans, and six scholarships, including the University of Maryland’s Presidential Scholarship, Reimal has to work two part-time jobs during school and three over the summer to cover the cost of school.

“Honestly, it is exhausting and most of the time I feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew,” Reimal admitted. “It is enough to make the luckiest people alive feel insane.”

Reimal has not yet had to take out personal loans, but she said she may have to in the future.

According to a study published in 2011 by the Census Bureau, 71 percent of the undergraduate students in the United States had a job. Of those students, nearly 20 percent work full-time, year round. At this university, more than 25 percent of the students meet those criteria.

Jordan Arndt, a sophomore business student, works at the office of student services at the journalism school. Arndt got the job, which he said pays him around $8.50 an hour, through the Federal Work-Study Program.

“I live in New York so I pay out of state tuition so this kind of pays for books and smaller expenses,” Arndt said about his work-study job. “That’s because [of] the fact that tuition is high. I can’t make more than a thousand a semester so right now I work 10 hours a week.”

According to the University of Maryland’s Federal Work-Study website, students can work up to 20 hours a week, but they usually fall between 10 to 15 hours a week. At the rate of $8.50 an hour that Arndt earns, it would be impossible to cover tuition alone, even if he could make more than $1,000 a semester.

Aside from working, some students seek scholarships in any form to help pay for school. Alan Rannals, a sophomore environmental science major, is a member of the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps and has his tuition paid in full by the Army. While he didn’t join Army ROTC to have his tuition paid, he said it helps a lot.

On top of his tuition, he gets a stipend of $350 a month while he’s in school.

“The stipend is more oriented towards the fact that a lot of the times you have to spend money,” says Rannals.  “Most kids need a new pair of boots which is like a 150 dollars, extra clothes, things like that.”

If you are a prospective student going into college, you are looking at just a few options. Either your parents pay for school, you have a full scholarship, or you take out loans. The current students seem to agree: The days of working your way through school, if they ever existed, are gone.


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