Working students generally get higher grades—with one exception

Colleges should help students better understand the potential risks of working while studying, Abigail Hess reports for CNBC.

Several studies have found that students who have jobs can do well academically, according to Dr. Gary Pike, executive director of institutional research and associate professor of higher education and students affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. A 1994 study by the National Center for Educational Statistics, a 2006 study published in the Journal of College Student Retention, and a 2009 study published in the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice all found that having a job can result in a higher GPA.

Transform student employment into meaningful career development

However, there's a caveat: academic performance suffers when students work more than 20 hours per week. A 2008 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that students who work more than 20 hours per week had a 2.95 average GPA, compared with 3.04 for non-working students and 3.13 for students who work fewer than 20 hours per week.

There are other drawbacks of working too much as well. Students who work more than 20 hours per week often don't have the flexibility to take an internship, which can hurt their chances of securing a job after college, says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. Students who work are also more likely to face exhaustion and consider dropping out, Carnevale adds. 

Students who work more than 20 hours a week generally do so out of necessity—often, these students come from low-income families and hope to minimize their college debt burden, Hess reports.

 Carnevale argues colleges could do more to fully explain the potential risks of working too much, including the effects GPA, completion, and career success. He recommends colleges also encourage students to take more advantage of alternative sources of funding, such as student loans (Hess, CNBC, 10/5; MarksJarvis, Chicago Tribune, 10/29/15).

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