Psychology major in the College of Arts and Sciences Lilianna Torres ‘18 is a full-time undergraduate student with what amounts to a full-time job.
It’s not easy for the 22-year-old to be a substitute teacher’s assistant and a student at the same time. But it’s what she has to do to get to graduation. And like many Stony Brook students, she’s determined to do what it takes.
“It’s tough working two part-time jobs and going to school full-time, but I do this so that I can keep up with my school loans. I don’t want to deal with a mountain of debt when I’m done,” Liliana said.
With the cost of tuition rising nationwide, many students have no choice but to work while studying, said Torres. “I work about 40 hours per week. I wouldn’t have two jobs if it weren’t for the high cost of college tuition. I keep up with my studies, but sometimes feel like I lose out on college experiences.”
It’s no surprise some students are working almost 40 hours a week to pay for college.
In 2016, a report conducted by Stony Brook University’s Career Center found an estimated 4,800 Stony Brook students were said to be working on campus in approximately 6,085 positions. And many students hold down more than one job. Through a survey conducted by the University, last year 1,987 students reported working off campus in part-time jobs.
And Stony Brook is among the lowest in undergraduate tuition compared to the public universities in the Association of American Universities (AAU), a binational organization consisting of 60 universities in the U.S. of leading research devoted to maintaining a strong system of academic research and education, according Braden J. Hosch, Ph.D., assistant vice president in the Office of Institutional Research, Planning & Effectiveness.
A study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that more than 70 percent of college students have worked while attending school during the past decade. The study also showed that approximately 25 percent of working students are simultaneously enrolled in college full-time and employed full-time at jobs that barely cover the cost of living. And that doesn’t take into account the interest they have on student loans.
But there’s a positive side to working while learning in higher ed.
Work experience is an obvious plus on a résumé, especially if it directly relates to a student’s field of choice. Even if the work is in an unrelated field, the experience can help a student develop highly desirable professional skills even before entering the work force.
Liliana works as a teacher’s assistant on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at the Middle Country School District, where she assists in checking homework and performs varied clerical duties. On Saturdays and Sundays, she works as a cashier at her father’s grocery store in Hempstead.
Meanwhile, Liliana is either volunteering her time doing research for the sociology department, assisting Dr. Catherine Marrone in her Sociology of Medicine class or interning at CHILL, an experiential learning opportunity with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and Student Health Services (SHS) that supports student mental health. “My trick to juggling everything is that I set constant calendar reminders to keep organized and stay on top of assignment deadlines.”
Liliana, whose ancestral roots are in Dominican Republic, is not only the first-generation American student in her family, but also the first one in her family to graduate high school and go to college.
Liliana says that although she has many expenses such as her school loans, car payment and car insurance, she does catch a break by being able to live rent-free with her dad.
Twenty-one-year-old, Sarah Hernandez ‘19, a health and science major, also balances working while going to college.
As a junior coordinator in at Stony Brook’s Walter J. Hawrys Campus Recreation Center, Sarah monitors the facility by keeping track of how many people are using the gym and checking students in and out of the center. She has been working there for three years to help pay for her college tuition and campus housing. Although Sarah starts work at 5:30 am, she prefers the early shift so that she can do homework and study in the afternoon. “It is not easy working part-time while going to school, but planning ahead and staying focused is the key,” Sarah said.
“As a first-generation college student, sometimes I get a lot of pressure from my family because they don’t entirely understand how difficult it is to juggle everything, but I always strive to manage my time appropriately.”
Another student who holds down more than one job while going to school is Patrick Hughes ‘18.
The 21-year-old majoring in Information Systems at the College of Engineering & Applied Sciences says that he manages his time strategically to be able to work two jobs and go to school.
“Luckily my positions as a web developer with the Communications & Marketing department and an operations assistant with the Student Activities Center allow flexibility where I can still focus on studying and getting assignments in on time,” Patrick said.
— Suzanne Mobyed