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Too much work can affect grades
by Salatha Helton, staff writer

Instead of getting involved in extracurricular activities or spending more time hitting the books, many students spend their time working long hours. Studies show that of those attending a four-year university, about 77 percent have jobs, and of these, according to the American Council on Education, 26 percent work full time.

Students attend college to get an education, in hopes of a better future; however, many don’t see their situation as being that simple. And they are finding it even more complicated with the Bush administration’s recent cuts in federal grants and loans, cuts which mean many students will be forced to find work to pay for their education. According to, the Pell Grant program is being downsized by $270 million, and although not all students will lose their grants, many will be short of funds for the 2004-2005 academic year.

Add to this the fact of costly tuition hikes over the last few years, and no wonder students are searching for jobs with higher pay and longer hours. Since 1997 the federal minimum wage has been only $5.15 an hour, and most employers base pay on the federal wage. Fortunately, in Hawai‘i, the state-required minimum wage is $6.25.

Antonia Garcia, a senior at HPU majoring in speech and public relations, agrees that she wouldn’t be able to balance having a full- time job and school. Garcia is thankful to be able to work part-time in the scholarships office through a federal work-study grant. “It isn’t hard to maintain work study, because you can work around your schedule,” said Garcia.

Not all students are so fortunate. Carmen Inda-lecio, also a senior at HPU, is a full-time student majoring in premed with a minor in speech, and she works two part-time jobs. She spends her days working 17 hours a week for HPU’s housing department and her nights, 10-15 hours a week, working at a restaurant, Bubba Gump’s. She does all this while enrolled in 14 to 17 credits a semester.

Indalecio gets an average of five to six hours of rest per night. “Organization, and time management is the key,” she said, and she added that working hard and going to school matures a person.

When asked why she puts all this time into working, she said working for the Housing Office gives her a tuition waiver, and her other job provides cash to spend.

In addition to working more hours to pay off tuition debt, student are also working hard to pay off credit card debt. Many students use credit cards as a way to pay for books and “in case of an emergency.” But it accumulates, and interest charges can border on usury.

A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center For Education Statistics, indicates that 60 percent of the students who attend public four-year colleges are in debt, compared to 67 percent of those attending private universities. The average accumulated debt of private university students is more than $17,000. The same study indicated that 72 percent of students attending public four-year universities receive financial aid, compared to 84 percent of those attending private universities. Private school percentages are higher because the cost of tuition is higher. However, none of this matters to students whose parents are well off, because they aren’t eligible for financial aid. Higher tuition just increases their drive to work.

Students who work long, hard hours don’t get enough sleep and don’t get enough studying done. The former produces signs of fatigue and irritability, the latter guilt, depression, and a drop in grades. Research shows that, students who work more than 15 hours a week evidence a decline in grades, according to the director of the American Council on Education.

There are some alternatives to working long hours. First, lifestyle: Students should find an apartment that is large and at least partially if not fully furnished, and they should find two or more roommates to split the costs.

Next, finances: accept only jobs with higher pay. Work full-time in the summer and save money. Apply for internships that pay—there are some out there.

Don’t use credit cards. Apply for student loans. Remember that credit cards have to be paid monthly, but the first installment payment on student loans is not due until eight months after graduation--plenty of time to find a full time job.



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