Working your way through college no longer means just a summer job. A recent study by higher education website Intelligent.com found a student making minimum wage would have to work full time in the summer and an additional 24 hours a week the rest of the year to afford the average public school tuition.
At Metropolitan State University of Denver, the findings aren’t surprising.
“Something like 80% of our students are working 30 to 40 hours a week,” said MSU Denver President Janine Davidson.
Davidson has given talks on the rising costs of college. She said the main factor behind soaring tuition costs is the lack of state funding.
For students who also have families and other bills to pay, it’s not unusual to work a full-time job in addition to attending school. Tirzah Carpio, 42, is pursuing a degree in construction project management, and also works full time.
“I wanted to keep moving up and the only way was to continue to get an education, to have a degree,” Carpio said.
Carpio takes courses part time at MSU while working the rest of the time. While it may take longer than if she devoted her time just to school, Davidson points out that five or six years is now normal for finishing a degree.
“It actually makes more sense to take a little more time and work along the way, so you take out less debt in loans and you graduate with hopefully job-relevant work experience,” Davidson said.
MSU Denver senior Gabe Grant took five years to finish his electrical engineering degree but used that time to do an internship with a company that will likely hire him on full time after he graduates in December.
“I also worked as a tutor on campus for about a year and I thought that was a valuable experience and I was getting good work experience too,” Grant said.
Tirzah said she hopes her two teenagers will be able to work less than she does when they get to college, but she expects they will have to get a part-time job.
“Twenty hours (per week) maybe...15 hours I think is golden,” she said.