LSU AgCenter Family Economist Looks At Pros And Cons Of College Employment

Jeanette A. Tucker  |  7/14/2005 7:51:34 PM

2005 Back-to-school News

Employment is more than a way for students to make money, according to LSU AgCenter family economics professor Dr. Jeanette Tucker. It also can foster a sense of self-worth, develop a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, enable a contribution to society and cultivate a sense of professional identity.

The family economist says, however, employment has its advantages and disadvantages. Listing advantages, she says employment:

• Defrays the cost of college, develops basic job skills (human capital) and interpersonal skills for future work and community involvement and 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 and 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 and builds resumes that 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 will "pay" in monetary and service income. Tucker explains that service income includes free or reduced-cost meals, coffee, employee discounts on purchases or privileges such as tanning booth or fitness center use. She says most college students take advantage of such service income, but few actually recognize the value.

About half of current undergraduates work to finance school, according to the family economist, adding that a Purdue University study found that 35 percent of students thought employment was a positive influence on grades because they had to manage their time better, and 27 percent thought employment reduced their grades because of time constraints. Lack of time for refresher courses or tutoring was reported by 37 percent. Taking fewer classes because of employment was reported by 20 percent.

Some students, by working, receive short-term benefits at long-term costs (less salary in the long run), but others are able to obtain a college degree that gives future rewards and less debt in the future.

"When students work more than 20 hours per week, their responsibilities for studies and classroom performance are often jeopardized," Tucker says.

Some students report 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," which means 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.

The family economist says the main problem is that requirements for work and study are unlimited, but time resources are limited. She says the solution, therefore, is to be more efficient and effective. Students should strive to be organized and use small bits of time.

"One’s greatest investment in life is education," Tucker says, adding, "Although one may have to make sacrifices to attain it, a degree cannot be stolen, lost or destroyed as material investments can." She says 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, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at 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) 578-5398, or

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