Balancing work and school

College students have a lot to pay for—tuition, including books, school supplies, transportation, food and a place to live are just some of the expenses students can expect. At Bellevue College, tuition and books alone for a full time student can exceed $2,000, and the cost of a state college can be up to five times that much. To afford the high cost of higher education, a greater percentage of students are working their way through school.

Erika Hanrieter, a full-time BC student studying criminal justice, has a job on top of her three classes. Since she transferred to BC from Washington State University last Fall, she has been working as a deli clerk at QFC. “I take my school stuff over to work sometimes. I have a half-hour break so I can do it there,” she said. “And the deli actually closes at nine, so I have a few hours at home too, before and after.” Hanreiter sometimes works more than 30 hours a week, and recommends that full-time students work no more than 25. She mentioned she wanted to cut her hours at work, but fewer hours means less money.

Hanrieter is not alone; according to the American Association of University Professors, the percentage of students like her, full-time undergraduates between the ages of 16 and 24, has risen from approximately 34 percent in 1970 to approximately 49 percent in 2005, and in 2010, one in every 10 full-time undergraduates is employed at least 35 hours per week. Also, while many assume that community and two-year colleges have a higher percentage of working students, the U.S. Department of Education found that the percentage of working students is spread evenly between students attending two-year and four-year schools.

Despite the time commitment and the extra stress of a job on top of school, Hanreiter prefers to look on the bright side. “I want to be a cop, and I’m going to have a lot more work than I do now, so it’s going to prepare me,” she said. Hanreiter also added that working an entry-level job gives her motivation for the future. “If you hate or dislike the job you have now, it’s more motivation to get a good degree so that you can get the job that you want, or at least a better one than what you have now.”

Tyler Durden, another working BC student who fluctuates between part-time and full-time study depending on the quarter, believes that in order for students to be successful, they need to stay organized and set priorities. Having a sympathetic boss also helps. “Luckily for me, most of my bosses have all been very understanding,” said Durden. “They treat their student employees very well. I’ve been sent home early to study for tests.”