Back-to-school: To Work Or Not To Work Is Student Question Says LSU AgCenter Family Economist

Jeanette A. Tucker  |  4/19/2005 10:28:32 PM

News You Can Use For July 2004

Employment can be more than financial gain for college students. Through it, students can foster a sense of self-worth, develop a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, make a contribution to society and cultivate a sense of professional identity, according to LSU AgCenter family economics professor Dr. Jeanette Tucker.

Nevertheless, student employment does have both advantages and disadvantages, Tucker says, first listing the advantages:

• Defrays the cost of college.

• Develops basic job skills (human capital) and interpersonal skills for future work and community involvement.

• Develops contacts for future employment (networking and reference).

• Enhances career possibilities (even if not paid).

• Helps students decide what they want to do or not do for a career.

• Makes college more affordable even though it may take more years to complete.

• Improves time and energy management skills (Warning: Don’t substitute work for study).

• Makes study more palatable.

• Builds résumés, which are viewed positively by prospective employers.

When students work part time, employers often do not have the financial capability to provide them with traditional health, medical and retirement benefits. Employers of college students may "pay" in monetary and service income. Service income may include free or reduced-cost meals, coffee, employee discounts on purchases, or privileges, such as tanning booth or fitness center use. Many college students take advantage of such service income, but few actually recognize the value.

About half of current undergraduates work to finance school. A Purdue University study reveals a number of negatives to employment. For example, some 27 percent of participants thought employment reduced their grades because of time constraints. Another 37 percent said work prevented taking refresher courses or tutoring.

Taking fewer classes because of employment was reported by 20 percent. When students work over 20 hours per week, their responsibilities for studies and classroom performance are often in jeopardy. Some students reported they wish they had taken more opportunities for social development, the arts, recreation, enrichment activities or general education.

Tucker encourages students to avoid being "penny wise but pound-foolish," that is, working to meet current wants but missing opportunities, enjoyment and long-term benefits.

"Some students may need to be reminded that studying is more important than a part-time job," Tucker says, noting that the main problem is that requirements for work and study are unlimited, but time resources are limited." Therefore, the solution is to be more efficient and effective. Students should strive to be organized and use loose bits of time.

"One’s greatest investment in life is education," Tucker says, explaining, "Although one may have to make sacrifices to attain it, a degree cannot be stolen, lost or destroyed as material investments can." In light of that, students and parents should consider both the pros and cons of student employment before the decision to work or not to work is made.

For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at
Extension/Departments/fcs/ For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
Source: Jeanette Tucker (225) 578-1425 or

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