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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Working Overtime

The summer before her freshman year, Jessica Sund attempted to work 80 hours per week to make money to pay for college.

Splitting her time between full-time jobs teaching swimming lessons and waitressing at IHOP, Sund found the workweek was just too much — so she dropped down to a more manageable 70 hours per week.

Sund is one of countless Marquette students working long hours in an attempt to mitigate the costs of college.

But these students end up making significant personal sacrifices and often still have considerable amounts of debt to contend with — class of 2009 graduates had an average of $31,469 in debt, and tuition for next year has risen to $30,040.

During her freshman year, Sund said she worked three jobs, averaging 20 to 30 hours per week.

Some nights she would be up until 3 a.m. doing homework, then wake up to make it to an 8 a.m. class.

“I was just a walking zombie. I’d be so exhausted every day,” said Sund, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration.

Studies have indicated that working long hours can affect students’ performances.

Both a 2008 study in a NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education journal and a 2006 report from the American Council on Education found that working more than 20 hours per week had a negative impact on students’ grades, although they differed as to how significant the impact was.

Sund said she felt working so much has had a negative impact on her grades, although she also credits her employment with giving her a strong work ethic.

“I’ve really come to appreciate it,” she said. “I really wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Gretchen Mitchell, a junior in the College of Nursing, also worked 80 hours a week this past summer to pay for school. She split her time between two different nursing homes, working at one from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and the other from 4 to 11 p.m. — meaning some days she worked 15 hours.

During the school year, Mitchell also works 12 hours per week in the Mashuda cafeteria as part of the Federal Work Study program, while occasionally babysitting on weekends. She continues to work her two nursing home jobs over breaks.

“It’s kind of hard when you go home for breaks,” she said. “It’s not a break because you’re always working.”

She said she would love to make a service trip over spring break or go somewhere fun like many other college students, but she can’t afford to lose the money she would otherwise make.

“It sucks to not be able to take advantage of those opportunities sometimes because I’m paying for this myself,” Mitchell said.

She said many people probably don’t realize how many Marquette students are paying for their own education.

“I think that’s the biggest misconception about a private school,” she said. “I’m sure I’m not alone.”


Paid by ‘The Man’

One way the federal government assists students in paying for college is through the Federal Work Study program.

Students who demonstrate a specific level of need, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid are eligible for the program, according to the Marquette Student Employment Services Web site.

These students must have extremely limited funds, demonstrate need and submit their FAFSA application on time, said Neelima Tummala in an e-mail. Tummala is the assistant director of systems in the Office of Student Financial Aid.

This year, 16 percent of the Marquette student body qualified for Work Study, Tummala said.

But not all students are guaranteed to qualify for Work Study even if they meet these requirements, said Annette D’Amato, coordinator of student employment in the Office of Student Financial Aid.

Students’ wages are paid by federal funding instead of the university, so the number of students Marquette is able to award Work Study depends on how much money the government allocates to the university, D’Amato said. The amount of funding has remained relatively constant the past couple of years, but the university expects it to decline next year because of limited government funds, she said.

Students with Work Study can work up to 20 hours per week at an on-campus job, although the university advises freshmen work no more than 10 hours per week. The 20-hour limit is both a Marquette and federal requirement intended to help students maintain a focus on school, D’Amato said.

“(Marquette) wants students to be students first,” she said. “They don’t want (students) to have a load that impacts their study.”

In general, Marquette advises students work no more than 40 hours per week in the summer.

Earnings begin at minimum wage ($7.25) but are determined by individual employers and are subsidized by the government. Wages tend to span $7.35 an hour (such as desk receptionists) to $10 (such as LIMO drivers).

The average student is eligible for about $2,000 through the program, usually used to pay living expenses and incidentals, Tummala said, though students are not required to use the money for academic purposes.

It is possible for a student to earn more than the amount they were awarded through Work Study, but this does not happen often because any additional amount the student earns must be paid entirely by the university, she said.

The award amount covers both semesters, D’Amato said.

Nationally, the average Work Study award in 2009 was $1,500, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Education.

Still not enough

Despite the long hours, students like Sund and Mitchell still have considerable loans to repay.

Both Sund and her parents took out loans to help cover the cost of her tuition. At the end of her freshman year, she was able to write her father a $5,000 check to help pay the interest on the loans, Sund said.

“My parents aren’t unwilling to help me, but I just try and carry as much of my weight as possible, because it’s not something they can just fork over,” she said.

This year, Sund’s father took out $18,000 in loans to help pay for college, while Sund took out $6,500.

Although as a Cobeen resident assistant Sund doesn’t have to pay room and board, she still had to take out an additional $1,500 in loans this year. Being an RA is a 24-hour job, so she can only work a limited amount outside the residence hall.

RAs are advised not to work more than 10 hours per week at a second job. Between her RA position and her job as an assistant in the Parking Office, Sund said she can sometimes work more than 20 hours per week.

Her job at the Parking Office was part of the Work Study program last year, but this year she did not qualify for the program because of her RA position, she said.

Although she is making less than she was last year, the RA position pays for her room and board, which saves her about $10,000 a year.

“In the long run, having the free housing is more beneficial,” she said. “Even working the three jobs wouldn’t have made enough for housing.”

But she said it was frustrating that she doesn’t receive more help from the Office of Student Financial Aid, when administrators there advise students not to work as much as she does.

“I am working more than 20 hours a week and they claim they’re meeting my financial need,” Sund said. “If that was the case I wouldn’t be working like I’m working.”

Between books, rent and various cost of living expenses, Mitchell said little of her money goes to paying off the loans she borrowed to cover what grants and scholarships do not.

“The money I’m making now is to sustain me now,” she said. “I made $10,000 this summer. Rent is $500 a month — that money goes really fast.”

But the positive of working so hard over the summer is that she can relax more during the school year, she said, rather than living paycheck to paycheck.

“That’s the payoff — you work two jobs each summer, and you get burned out so you can go to school and relax and get good grades,” she said. “Then you don’t have to worry about the money over the school year.”

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