Improving Educational Opportunities for Students Who Work

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GSE Faculty Research
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Higher Education
Educational Foundations
Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research
Educational Sociology
Education Economics
Education Policy
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Asha Cooper, Michelle
Li, Chunyan

College students who cannot pay the price of attendance from some combination of personal financial resources and grants typically have three options: do not attend college, borrow money using public and private loans, and/or work. Data show that increasing shares of students are utilizing both loans and work to pay for college-related expenses (Baum, 2005). Much attention has focused on growth in borrowing (e.g., Baum, 2005; Perna, 2001), as well as potential consequences of borrowing for various aspects of students’ educational experiences, including persistence and degree completion (DesJardins, Ahlburg, & McCall, 2002; St. John, 2003) and graduate school enrollment (Choy & Carroll, 2000; Ehrenberg, 1991; Fox, 1992; Perna, 2004; Weiler, 1991). Less attention has focused on the consequences of working, even though most students work some number of hours while they are enrolled, regardless of the type of institution they attend (Choy & Berker, 2003; King & Bannon, 2002; McMillion, 2005; NPSAS:04). The percentage of full-time college students who are employed has increased steadily over the past three decades, rising from 36 percent in 1973 to 48 percent in 2003 (Fox, Connolly, & Snyder as cited in Baum, 2005). The share of full-time college students who work at least 20 hours each week has also been growing, rising from 17 percent in 1973 to 30 percent in 2003 (Fox et al. as cited in Baum, 2005).

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