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Mercer students work more than peers at four-year colleges

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Written by: Zac Santanello and Dan Povio


According to a survey conducted by The VOICE, students at Mercer County Community College are more likely to work longer hours at a job outside of school than students at local 4 year universities such as The College of New Jersey.

Jose Rodriguez, a student and Vice President of Student Government Association at Mercer and full-time em- ployee at Horizon Blue Cross/ Blue Shield, said that, instead of limiting his productivity, his hyper-busy schedule helps him to stay on track. “Me personally, I’m a procrastinator. If I don’t feel pressed, I won’t get things done. I think it’s actually helpful to have a schedule where I’m pressed.”

The survey also found that students at community colleges have much more in terms of obligations to things such as work and family versus students at four year universities.

The survey, consisting of 40 students at Mercer and 40 at TCNJ, was conducted in November of 2012, and found that 65 percent of students at Mercer have jobs outside of their schoolwork, compared to only 25 percent at The College of New Jersey. Not only do more students at Mercer work, they work more hours, with over 60 percent of students that work working more than 16 hours a week com- pared to TCNJ’s 20 percent of students who work over 16 hours.

According to Dr. Dylan Wolfe, professor of Communication Studies who is in his first year of teaching at Mercer and has previously taught at Clemson University in South Carolina, said, “A small percentage of Clemson students worked part time, maybe 20 percent and almost none had full time jobs.”

Dr. Wolfe said, “Mercer students seem to complain less about class work and out of class work, but group projects are an issue, it is difficult to find common time.”

Being a new community college professor, Dr. Wolfe continued, “I’m definitely in the process of learning how to adjust my teaching style to community college… College is difficult as it is, I feel for the students who are working full time, being a full-time student is like a full-time job, I don’t know when they sleep.” Rodriguez said that his work schedule rarely impedes upon his school work. Rodriguez told the VOICE that he started working to make some spending money, but that things have changed. “I make too much to get financial aid,” Rodriguez said, explaining that he now has to pay for his own schooling.

“It’s all about selling it to your employer that it’s good to have an educated employee,” said Rodriguez about convincing your employer to allow for a work schedule that can coexist with your school schedule. “With my job, they’re pretty flexible with my schedule, but obviously there are times that I am worrying about getting everything done.” Rodriguez guessed that, working security, being a student, and representing the student body, he works between 50 and 70 hours a week.

Even with all the hours worked at school and outside, Rodriguez believes that it is better to work while you are a student. “I suggest working when you go to school,” Rodriguez said, “It’s a lot cheaper long-term.”

Rodriguez prefers to pay for his school instead of the common alternative of taking out loans, which is becoming a growing trend across the nation. According to a November 2012 article by CNBC’s Kelly Evans entitled “Student- Loan Delinquencies Now Surpass Credit Cards,” the third quarter of 2012 showed student debt in the United States surpassing credit card debt for the first time. As of September 2012, that was about $956 billion.

In a speech at the University of North Carolina in April, 2012, President Obama discussed student loan debt both as a national phenomenon and on a personal note. “So by the time we both graduated from law school, we had between us about $120,000 worth of debt… we combined and got poor together.” President Obama referenced the fact that he and the First Lady had only finished paying off their student loans a few years before he was elected to office. “We need to make college more affordable for our young people.”

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