Students who work while enrolled in college classes tend to take extra semesters to graduate, data show.
Besides commuting an hour from Upper Dublin, Montgomery County to Main Campus and working between 20 to 30 hours per week, sophomore political science student Ethan Penning is part of Temple’s Diamond Marching Band and said he prefers to take challenging courses, like intermediate Mandarin.
“I have practically no time [for studying],” Penning said.
But he’s not the only college student who balances school, extracurricular activities, a job and a social life. Approximately 11 percent of undergraduates work at least three hours per week at a job, said Cynthia Russell, director of communications for the Office of the President.
Thirty-six percent of students who work 25 hours or more graduate within six years. Meanwhile, for those students who do not work, 67 percent graduate in six years. Russell said that the federal government asks universities to track six-year graduation statistics.
“It’s less frequent in this generation for people to graduate in four years because they want to double major, take time off or have other family and personal obligations,” Russell said, adding that 38 percent of incoming freshman graduate within four years.
“Thirty percent or more of the students leave Temple. We lose 15 percent after freshman year, and another 15 percent after sophomore year,” said Peter Jones, senior provost for undergraduate studies. “There are only about 1 percent of students who take more than six years to graduate.”
He said that these figures for Temple are ahead of the national average for large, urban universities. However, the national average for students to graduate within four years is 63.2 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which tracked students from 2003 to 2009.
But Jones said that the university’s use of eight-semester course-map guides, risk assessment procedures that locate potential dropouts and personal academic advisers and other efforts are working to increase Temple’s graduation rate.
The ailing national graduation rates are partly due to the country’s struggling economy, which has resulted in increasing the number of working students, Jones said.
Jones emphasized the importance of lowering dropout rates and raising four-year graduation rates, but admits that working while enrolled full-time, especially working 20-25 hours per week, can have tremendous repercussions–particularly less time to focus on studies.
In addition to surrendering key studying hours, Jones said that, in the long run, making a few extra bucks now isn’t worth paying the cost for another year in college.
“After everything is added up, you’ve lost between [$80,000] to $100,000 by that decision to work that 20-hour job,” Jones said.
Penning said that his time working may affect his chances of graduating on time.
“I could, technically, graduate on time, but I don’t know that I will,” Jones said.
Khoury Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.