Balancing GPA and work depends on working hours

Part-time working students are more likely to be on the Dean’s List as opposed to students working more than 20 hours each week, a recent study says.

A study conducted by Charlene Kalenkoski, an associate professor of economics at Ohio University, and Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia, a research economist in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Division of Productivity Research and Program Development, has found that working more than 20 hours while in school may have a negative effect on GPAs.

Kalenkoski and Pabilonia decided to collaborate while doing research on student behavior.

“We were both interested in examining the magnitude of the effect of working while in school on grades because of the common perception that students who are working are sacrificing study time,” Pabilonia said in an e-mail interview. “In addition, we wanted to know why students choose to work. In particular, do they work to cover the cost of tuition and fees? Are their parents not contributing enough?”

Kalenkowski and Pabilonia found different results for four-year and two-year college students.

In four-year college students, the more money their parents gave them, the less they worked.

Two-year college students whose parents did not pay for their tuition worked more if tuition costs were higher, yet their earnings did not go directly into paying for tuition costs. This finding led Kalenkowski and Pabilonia to speculate that these students rely on loans to help pay for schooling while the money they earn from work goes to paying for entertainment and other non-tuition expenses.

“As the net price of schooling rises, two-year students work more, although not enough to cover the increase in cost,” Pabilonia said. “Thus, they must be partly relying on loans to cover increases in costs.”

The negative correlation found between grades and work hours, however, only applies to students that work more than 20 hours per week.

“We found that four-year students who work between one and twenty hours per week have higher GPAs than other college students who do not work at all and those who work more than twenty hours,” Pabilonia said.

Pabilonia added that this could be due to student motivation, as students who take on a certain amount of work are likely to be aware of how to effectively manage their time.

“In other words, this same group of students might have even have higher grades if they were not working,” Pabilonia said.

Sophomore Ashley Martin said that this finding made sense to her.

“If you don’t have a job you probably think you have more free time than you actually do which is why I think people procrastinate,” Martin said. “On the other hand, people who work too many hours will find it hard to get enough free time to keep up with their studies. So working between one and twenty hours a week gives the perfect balance to keep you on your toes.”

Anastiya Osborne, research assistant at the Office of Productivity and Technology at BLS, added that the type of work may even make a difference in GPA.

“In my experience, working while in school does have a slightly negative effect on a GPA, but also depends on whether the student is working a job related to a future profession or not, or if the student has work ‘on call’ that allows doing homework in downtime or busy work,” Osborne said.

Other students thought the study’s findings hold true generally but don’t apply to all students.

“I have no doubt that when time is divided people are not going to do the best job in both fields,” said sophomore history major Kyle Short. “After all, multi-tasking is hard. But it always depends on the person and their work ethic.”

“The topic is relevant, especially during economic crisis,” Osborne said.

ELENI STEPHANIDES can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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