Statistics For Working Students

“The number one reason students give for leaving school is the fact that they had to work and go to school at the same time and, despite their best efforts, the stress of trying to do both eventually took its toll.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation published a report dispelling myths and offering the reality behind declining college completion rates. The research was based off of surveys that suggested that dropping out of school was a very prevalent consequence of working while attending college.

The study found that, “Balancing work and school was an even bigger barrier than finding money for tuition. Those who dropped out are almost twice as likely to cite problems juggling work and school as their main problem as they are to blame tuition bills (54 percent to 31 percent).”

Another major factor contributing to the major decline in college completion rates involves the cost of tuition. More students are either paying for their education entirely or are helping with the financial burden of tuition than in previous years.

This rise in student financial responsibility seems problematic as the Bill and Melinda Gate’s Foundation study found that 6 out of 10 students who failed to earn a college degree said that they paid for their education independently and without the help of others, as compared to the 6 out of 10 who did graduate and stated that they had help with the cost of their tuition.

These statistics are troubling at a time when the value of obtaining a college degree may be at its highest point. In CNN’s article, “College degree seen as better investment than ever,” Andreas Schleicher, the education directorate of OECD, stated, “Probably in these times there is no better investment you can make than in your education. Rate of return is in the order of 10 to 15 percent. And then think about what other investments you can make these days where you get a similar rate of return.”

A survey conducted by Arizona State University found that holding a college degree not only impacts average salaries but also influences unemployment rates.

Education Pays Chart 2012

I started this blog to highlight the plight of the working college student, a very real struggle especially for those students who pull more than 20 hours a week at work while attending full time – but these statistics highlight the importance of completing the task at hand.

It is now more important than ever to stay the course and drudge through the sleepless nights and mental breakdowns that school and work can trigger. The struggle is real, but the reward is great. I know that I will personally be proud when I walk at my graduation, and know now that the odds are not in my favor to do so.

These statistics can either cause a sense of hopelessness in student workers, or can instill a sense of inspiration to fight the odds and succeed. I hope that they inspire my fellow working students to fight the odds and win.

It isn’t easy, but there is proof that it is worth the fight.

What is actually happening with the price of tuition

In 2012-2013 the average price of attending college rose to 5.2% above inflation. Recent data suggests that the average college tuition has fallen to 2.3 % above inflation, which insinuates that college is becoming more affordable, yet the data is incomplete. While the cost of attending college may seem to be stabilizing, it is actually disproportionate to the amount of aid being offered to low income students, actually rasing out of pocket costs for students with lower income.

A team of journalists from The Education Writers Association, The Dallas Morning News and The Hechinger Report compiled data regarding tuition costs and income brackets, and found that while higher income families still pay more for college education, lower income families are experiencing higher tuition raises than their more affluent counterparts. The data has been turned into a website, Tuition Tracker, where students and families can search for tuition prices and raises at various universities.

Tutition Trackers searchable database

Tuition Tracker’s searchable database

This tool can help lower income families find schools affordable schools and compare costs when considering higher education.

Many students find full-time work to offset the cost of education, and when tuition increases at steep rates it makes completing college seem nearly impossible. While the cost of education increases, the number of full-time working college students is also rising to comply with the increased costs, and it can have serious impacts on graduation rates.

As the cost of college increases and financial aid options are becoming limited, it is growing increasingly harder for lower income students to succeed in the realm of academics but some college programs are making changes that can help students succeed.

The concept of working while in college is getting a new spin by universities that are accepting the ‘Work College’ model.

Work Colleges Website

These colleges, as stated on  the Work Colleges Organizations website, are working to build, “character, work ethic, leadership, critical thinking and time management skills,” by paying students to provide work for areas in which they are studying- giving them valuable work experience while helping them pay for school.

Currently, there are seven participating colleges, but the organizations website offers information for interested universities to participate, hopefully expanding the idea to more college campuses in the future.

SAT Changes and Reactions

The SAT has long been the most popular college placement exam, and in the spring of 2016, the test is getting a major facelift. The test is changing key components, such as the vocabulary and essay portions of the test , as well as adopting a new point-scale in an effort to more effectively tie high school classwork to the college entrance exam. These change will greatly effect future college students, and might have an effect on lower income families and future student workers, as many scholarships are tied to SAT scores.

After the changes were announced last week many Twitter users took to the web to discuss their opinions on some of the key changes.

Some of the comments were playful or sarcastic

some were optimistic about the future of the test

others were more critical about the nature of the changes

some Twitter users even expressed fear for the future generation of college students

some of the harshest criticism for the changes came from students and young adults

While the tone of the conversation seems to weigh in on the negative side, there are still those who believe the changes being made are improvements.

While others, perhaps begrudgingly, admit that the changes may still have little effect on college admission.


A portrait of a working student


Tessa Ferguson, A student at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, lives a very complicated life. While working multiple jobs, she finds time to attend classes and complete difficult homework assignments. In this video, she discusses the benefits of working while attending college, but laments on some of the things she has had to give up in the process of working and learning. Her voice is one of many, as the number of working students is on the rise. While it is incredibly difficult to balance school, life and work, Ferguson believes this situation will make her a better employee in the future.

SB 1062 Protest and Protester Reactions

The cheering crowds and deep sound of drums urged the protestors on. Arizona’s controversial SB 1062 brought out thousands to protest and march at the Capitol on February 24, 2014. Governor Jan Brewer recently vetoed the bill on Wednesday, February 26, 2014.

Protestor holding signs

Photo courtesy of Ismael Lopez

The protest took place around 5:30 p.m. The setting sun provided a beautiful backdrop to marching concerned citizens with passionate and sometimes controversial signs and banners.

A protestor sign that says "I don't always protest but when I do it's because AZ Legislators have lost their minds."

Photo courtesy of Ismael Lopez

Thousands were in attendance to urge the Governor to veto this new legislation. Young and old marched around the Capitol, filmed by many local news stations, only pausing for an inspirational chant before reaching the Capitol building.

The bill, which passed the Senate on February 19, 2014, created a stir around the valley. Numerous businesses emailed Jan Brewer earlier in the week, asking her to veto the bill. Arizona’s Super Bowl 2015 hosting ability was also rumored to be at risk.

Protestors gathered at the Capitol building

This bill would have affected workers, as Arizona would have possibly lost a large amount of revenue in response to the legislation. Ismael Lopez, a protestor and employee of the food and beverage industry, spoke of his fears about the legislation.

“You can’t impose your beliefs on some one else,” Lopez said. He also talked about his fears regarding his job, fearing that the loss of tourism revenue would impact his own economic stability.

A number or churches and religious representatives were also at the protest, showing support for the protestors. I spoke to one local church that supported the vetoing of SB 1062.

A sings for the "First Congregational United Church of Christ."

Leif Oreinergansen of the First Congregational United Church of Christ church felt SB 1062 was “awful,” and “not supporting.” The church, which has a Sunday service at 10:30 a.m., is located at 1407 N. 2nd Street in Phoenix, Ariz.

With the fear of uncertainty now at rest, Arizona’s workers and those in opposition to SB 1062 can now breath a sigh of relief.

Tips for “Nontraditional Students.”

I’m passionate about advocacy for students who work full-time because I know first-hand what a challenge working while going to school can be. As a waitress pulling in sometimes 50 hours a week while attempting to get a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication, I’ve seen my fair share of all-nighters, ridiculous amounts of caffeine consumption, missing out on extra-curricular activities, and melt downs over scheduling conflicts.

“75% of undergraduate students are considered nontraditional students”- You Can Deal With It.

It turns out that most students can relate to these struggles. According to You Can Deal With It, a public service of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, 75% of undergraduate students are considered “nontraditional students.” Nontraditional students include students who do not immediately attend college, work full-time jobs, are financially independent, or have dependents of their own.  Some students fall into multiple categories within this definition.

It is an incredibly impossible struggle to be the best at everything. In the fight to memorize 50 definitions for a psychology class in the middle of working a 12-hour-mid-shift, something has to give. I personally calculated my suggested hours of study time, work schedule, factored in sleeping an average of five hours per night and found that I have exactly three hours of free time every week.  Three hours. Three hours to binge on Netflix, take an extra-long bath, read a book or go grocery shopping. With a portion of that three hours I have decided to compile a list of tips for students like me.

Tips for “nontraditional students”:

Student with laptop computer

Photo courtesy of CollegeDegrees360

  1. Be realistic. There are times when you need to have fun. There are also times when you are going to have to say no to an extra shift and focus on your school-work. When you are signing up for classes, be realistic with what you can actually handle.


    Photo courtesy of Mike Baird

  2. Take good care of your body. Going to school and working full time can be a marathon so you need to treat your body right. Nothing is worse than getting sick in the middle of finals week, especially when you throw work into the mix too. Eat healthy food and balanced meals, even when you want to go for the ice cream and potato chips. Sleep as much as you can. Take some time out for some personal care.

    Students gathered around laptop computer

    Photo courtesy of Parker Knight

  3. Be honest with your employer. I’ve been known to be a moody employee during midterms and finals, but my employer knows that of me- because I’ve warned him. I also don’t take the late shift unless I absolutely have to (8 a.m. is very early when you don’t get off work till 2 a.m.) Most employers are willing to work with hectic student schedules. If your employer can work with you, take advantage of it. If not, then I am truly sorry (and you may want to consider finding a new job.)

    A calander with sticky notes

    Photo courtesy of Seth Werkheiser

  4. Set goals for each day (or week.) Sit down with your calendar and plan out as much as you can so that you can successfully battle the beast known as procrastination. Setting daily, or weekly goals can help you stay focused and can keep you from missing important deadlines.

    Three women talking on the beach

    Photo courtesy of Chris Clogg

  5. Find someone you can talk to. I would recommend not making this person a student that does not have to work. That can get ridiculously frustrating, very quickly. Finding someone who can act as a sounding board and can talk you off a ledge or two will be your best shot at staying sane. It’s easy to fall into the deep end of despair in the middle of a busy work and school week. If you have a voice of reason reminding you of why you are going through this whole crazy situation, you will probably be able to keep your cool.

Ideas for students who need help paying for education

This short video describes options for students looking for financial aid or employment. It features websites where students can access a free application for federal student aid, and where Arizona State University students can search for on-campus and off-campus employment opportunities. Paying for education can be very difficult, but there are options to help make that burden manageable.

While the number of working college students is on the rise, one Phoenix, Ariz. full-time working student is finding ways to make it work.

Megan Templeton

Photo courtesy of Megan Templeton


While working 10-15 hours on campus is what most major universities recommend, there are some students who put in more time, even full-time hours, at work. A 2011 report by Jessica Davis for the United States Census Bureau found that of the 72% of college students who held jobs, 20% of them worked more than 20 hours a week. Megan Templeton is one of those students.

Studying full-time at Bryan University and putting in 40 hours a week as a server, Megan Templeton knows the difficulties of balancing school, work and life.

Templeton is a college senior studying Exercise Science. She has one remaining semester and is well seasoned in the art of multi-tasking and time-management.

Taking on 16 credit hours in a fast paced online module style of learning and working full-time hours can both physically and mentally overwhelming. Templeton noted some of the necessary compromises she has made.

“You loose your social life. I’ve lost my social life completely,” said Templeton.

It can be a struggle, but Templeton is optimistic of her future and finds positivity even in a difficult situation.

“It’s rewarding. Conquering both,” said Templeton. She says she will be proud of her accomplishments when she has graduated,  in a way that other students might not understand.

While the number of full-time working students is on the rise, the majority of students are either unemployed or work part-time hours. Templeton offered some advice to the smaller percentage.

“Be patient. Take advantage of the sleep while you can,” said Templeton. She also noted that exercise is a great stress reliever and has helped her through the difficulties of studying and working full-time.“Exercise gets me through a lot,” said Templeton.