Student work-school balance a fine line

By Clance Cook

Clance Cook

Daily Egyptian



All work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but many students work full-time while they attend school, according to a 2011 census report.

The report concludes that 20 percent of undergraduate student workers worked full-time all year in 2011, and 52 percent worked less than that. Nearly 50 percent of graduate students worked full time while the majority — 82 percent — worked at least part-time.

Dr. Scott Gilbert, the director of undergraduate studies and associate economics professor, said the census information is sound. However, the university would have to look closely to determine how well the report represents university students.

“The numbers they report for the nation as a whole may not be far off from SIU,” he said. “But we might want to think if we are similar to what this national average portrait would be, or are we not exactly the same. If not, those averages wouldn’t fit us.”

Alyona Yurchenko, driving instructor for Reeder Driving School and junior from Lake in the Hills studying geology, said limited hours would make it difficult to work while in school.

“It is easier living on campus when all my bills are all on housing,” she said. “I use to pay out of pocket for that when I lived off campus. It is a lot easier to save more money, but it is still hard to have a job and complete homework that has deadlines. Sometimes it happens that you are working late but you try to get things done as soon as you can.”

Douglas Berger, an associate philosophy professor, said many students wouldn’t obtain the full educational experience if they move task to task.


“At times it depends on the work being done for graduate students,” he said. “If their work is related to their field, then obviously that kind of work will be more beneficial, but if students are forced to do work outside of their major, it makes it harder.”

High school students spend more time in the classroom while the reverse is true for college, Berger said.

Richard F. Bortz, a graduate workforce education professor, said he would rather have a student employee in his class over one who isn’t. However, all workforce students are required to have two years proof of work experience, Bortz said.

“There are only 24 hours in a day, but I think some students can take more than a 20-hour work week, but those students are really driven, organized and (are) the kinds of students you would hire,” Bortz said.

Some students said they would be able to handle full-time work while in school, but others said it might be too difficult.

Aziza McNees, a sophomore from Springfield studying radio-television, said she doesn’t see the issue with working while in school.

McNees’ desire to assist her family in paying for college expenditures compels her to work, she said.

“My parents pay for college. I don’t have any loans or anything, we pay for everything out-of-pocket. I really have a job to help my parents out because college is expensive,” she said. “It is just so I have money and I am not asking them. I haven’t asked them for money since I got into college. I haven’t asked oh mom can I have twenty dollars because I have a job, they don’t have to worry about me eating or needing money.”

Nicolas Poulin, a junior from Crystal Lake studying biological science, said he doesn’t believe it would be possible to work a full-time job and attend school.

“Some people can handle it, but I take 17 credit hours, which is a lot,” he said. “It is my full-time job. I don’t believe that working is good or bad for a student. I think it depends on the person, there is no way I could maintain my GPA while working and being a full-time student.”

Both McNees and Poulin are on the dean’s list—McNees has a 3.0 GPA, and Poulin has a 3.5 GPA.

However, the university can’t expect students to cover every university cost, Gilbert said.

“Well, the idea that you can take a campus job as a student and pay your way is a joke,” he said. “There is no way, and everybody knows it, and the administration knows it, and they’re not seriously considering the idea that you can pay your way through college by working at McDonald’s.”

Clance Cook can be reached at [email protected] or 536-3311 ext. 254.