Prioritizing college or working to pay for it? Pick one.

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November 29, 2012

8:55 PM

Throughout the election season, I cannot think of two words that were utilized more than “jobs” and “economy.” The inundation of political ads from various forms of media seemed almost unbearable at times, but luckily for the American population, the presidential election has finally come to a close.

Just because the debates and advertisements have stopped, however, does not mean the issues have been solved by any means. You don’t have to watch the news for long before there is some mention of economic problems such as the unemployment rate or the impact of the Eurozone crisis on stock prices. Being a full-time student without a large investment portfolio often makes these stories seem far from important in my daily life.

At the same time, the economy is very pertinent to students, considering most students’ objective here at the College of William and Mary is to obtain a degree so as to improve their long-term earnings prospects. Investing in a college education and getting a job after graduation are topics I find many people do not like to discuss, however. Bringing up the job search or resume building often invites loathing comments from my fellow peers about the drag of networking and interviews.

Ignoring the job search or the cost of education is often necessary on a day-to-day basis to avoid the high levels of stress associated with both activities, but at some point we all need to grab the bull by the horns and start searching for meaningful employment after we graduate, often to help pay off the burdensome student loans that unrelentingly accrue interest. The reality of the situation, however, is that finding a place of white-collar employment is becoming increasingly difficult for many students, even from top universities such as the College. Employers are taking fewer candidates, making the process of finding a job even more competitive than it was previously.

The employment issues for many students don’t start post-graduation, either. More students are beginning to face economic hardships even during school. A new article entitled “Economy Affects Students’ Academic Performance as Well as Spending Decisions” in The Chronicle of Higher Education describes how an underperforming economy contributes to lowered academic performance for many students. The article cites the National Survey on Student Engagement showing that roughly one-third of seniors chose not to purchase course-required materials due to their cost and half of seniors who worked more than 20 hours a week stated their job interfered with their academic performance.

These statistics are alarming. Although it sounds idealistic, all college students should be able to focus their time and efforts on academic success. Having a job that pays close to minimum wage does not adequately compensate students for the time lost studying and participating in extracurricular activities when one credit comes at the cost of thousands of dollars for out-of-state students. Forcing students to mortgage their financial future and academic success just to cover day-to-day expenses and textbooks while in school is an issue that must be addressed. To add complexity to the issue, the article states that more and more students are also using employment prospects as one of the primary motivating factors for choosing their major. Thus, not only are many students sacrificing academic success for marginal amounts of cash inflows in the short term, many are also sacrificing their passions in order to have a better chance at a financially sound future.

In the end, regardless of your political affiliation, I hope you have come to the same realization as I have of the importance of heavy investment in education so that everyone has the ability not only to attend a post-secondary institution, but to also find his or her passion and to succeed in that area. As students here at the College, we all believe in the value of an exemplary education, so it’s time we make our voices heard on the importance of government investment in institutions like the College.

Email Derek Bluemling at [email protected]

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