As college tuition and book costs continue to rise, many college students find it difficult to afford college without also working to supplement their income.
UW-Fox Valley Sophomore La Toya Spady is an Uber driver, works for Empowerment Living services, a caregiving home, and is also a private caregiver for Winnebago County. On average, she works 60 hours per week while taking 16 credits.
“It’s very difficult to fit work in around my class schedule. It’s hard for me to get anything done,” Spady says.
UW-Fox Valley Sophomore Nikayla Schommer also struggles to work late-night shifts at Festival Foods while taking 12 credits.
“It’s hard because Festival Foods would call up and see if I could cover shifts. Some nights I would have a really late shift when I had exams the next day, and the later it gets at night, the harder it is for me to focus,” Schommer says.
Former UW-Fox Valley Student Sahara Timm worked about 32 hours per week as a caregiver for developmentally disabled adults while taking 12 credits, but often, taking more hours was needed.
“I was always picking up hours, so sometimes I would be working 50 to 60 hours a week,” Timm says.
To get around this problem, Schommer started her own business as a goldendoodle dog groomer, which allows her to schedule her own appointments and decide her own hours.
Timm stayed on as a caregiver, but being able to do homework during her shift helped her balance work and school.
“I could actually do homework at work. My employer was fine with it as long as there was down time and I had gotten the cleaning done,” Timm said.
Timm believes that many students simply can’t afford school without working.
“I think that the majority of the people that you talk to, the ones that come from the working middle class, they are going to be working but they are still going to be taking that financial aid because then they can keep up that lifestyle while still paying for school. If they just do the financial aid, they are going to have to come from a fairly wealthy family that is going to help support them and supplement their income,” Timm said.
Despite the many challenges that students face by working while attending college, there are also benefits. For example, Schommer uses her wages to pay off tuition and buy textbooks.
“I am making enough money that I can pay for my books easily. Over years of saving my money, I have been able to afford semesters here,” Schommer says.
In Timm’s opinion, getting work experience in college is crucial to secure future opportunities.
“If you don’t work while you are at college you won’t have work experience, you won’t have interview experience. [Without that], I think it’s a lot harder to get a job,” Timm says.
Whatever the costs and benefits, more and more students like Spady, Schommer and Timm are working in order to cover expenses while attending college.