Paid Work During School Year Hinders Students’ Studies, Say Professors

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With tuition costs rising, many students are taking on paid work during the school year.

However, a recent survey of more than 1400 faculty and librarians at Ontario universities done by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) finds that paid work during the school year could be hindering students’ studies.

“We expect our students to pay for a larger share of their education, engage in more paid work, attend larger classes, have less interaction with faculty, and pursue remedial courses on top of their regular studies to succeed in a demanding university curriculum. This is a recipe for disaster.” —Mark Langer, president, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

Report’s findings

During the 2010-2011 academic year, “the average Ontario undergraduate tuition bill is up 5.4 per cent to $6,307 – which is almost $1,200 more than the national average of $5,138,” says Mark Langer, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and a faculty member at Carleton University.

This means that Ontario students and their families are now paying for nearly 50% of the cost of their university education.

With rising tuition costs, more students are working during the academic year.  33% of respondents to the OCUFA survey perceived that students’ paid work outside the classroom had increased over the past year.

Their perception appears to be correct, according to the Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey that found 41% of full-time male students (ages 20-24) and 52% of female students in the same age group working during the school year.

Not only are students working more, but this could also be hindering their academic success, or at least that was the perception of 64% of respondents to the OCUFA survey.  Only 6.6% of those who responded perceived work outside of the classroom as enhancing students’ academic performance.

Langer summarizes the situation, explaining: “We expect our students to pay for a larger share of their education, engage in more paid work, attend larger classes, have less interaction with faculty, and pursue remedial courses on top of their regular studies to succeed in a demanding university curriculum. This is a recipe for disaster.”

The OCUFA survey also revealed that respondents were concerned with students’ preparedness for university.  Many respondents suggested that university students were less prepared than the previous year, noting concerns with students’ writing skills, numeracy, critical thinking, research skills and time management.  Remedial programs were proposed by many respondents as a way to better prepare students for university.

How to make the best of working

The reality is that many students will have to continue working during the school year in order to cover the cost of their education, or will decide to work during the school year because of benefits of working.  However, how can students make the best of student employment?

Kristi Kerford, manager of the Career Centre at Trent University in Peterborough, stresses the importance of work experience, encouraging students to find jobs either on campus or with employers who can be accommodating of your students’ academic schedules.  She also advises students to use their most productive times for school work, and choose other times to fit work into their schedules.

Douglas Daher, the dean of students at Centennial College in Toronto, says time management is also a key skill for students who are balancing school and work.  Students might also consider a better balance between working during the summer and during the school year.  Or, for students looking for on-campus, part-time (no more than 15 hours a week) work during the school year, programs like the Ontario Work Study Plan might be of interest; this program is designed to accommodate students and their school schedules.

Let’s discuss

Do you feel that your paid work during the school year has helped or hindered your academic performance?  Did your work schedule, the type of work, the number of hours you worked per week, or any other factor(s) make your paid work experience one that helped or hindered your academic success?

Photo credit: McDonald’s by bizmac on Flickr
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About the author

Elizabeth Baisley is currently studying for an Master of Arts in Political Studies at Queen's University, where she works as a teaching assistant. She recently completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights & Human Diversity at Wilfrid Laurier University's Brantford campus. Elizabeth's academic interest in the rights of marginalized populations translates into her volunteer work and extracurricular involvement in the fields of rights advocacy, immigrant settlement, literacy, health, environmental issues, and local democracy. In September 2013, she will begin her PhD in Politics at Princeton University.