BY KOBI AZOULAY
Getting a college degree requires a big time commitment, filled with long nights of studying note cards and writing essays, a feeling many students and alumni know all too well.
Along with this comes the added stress of having to come up with the money to pay for school, another struggle many students face.
University of Maryland Eastern Shore junior, Aaron Jones experiences this stress firsthand, and had to combat this by taking a few semesters off in order to earn the money to pay for school.
“Sometimes I just don’t have enough money for consecutive semesters so I take one off and work towards the next one,” Jones said.
At UMES, 73 percent of students receive loans in order to pay for their college fees according to Cappex, but Jones does not receive anything. Instead, choosing to avoid taking on debt by paying for everything himself, including his own living expenses.
“I haven’t had a day off since the semester began,” Jones said. “It’s a constant issue to prioritize what I need to do like working double-shifts serving, versus what I want to do like sleeping or going to the gym.”
Jones said he wishes that he could get involved on campus, but between studying and doing homework for a dual-degree while working, he spends a lot of his free time catching up on sleep or with friends and family.
Salisbury University Career Services Director Kevin Fallon thinks prospective bosses would appreciate situations like Jones’ because of how tough it is to work and focus on school.
“Employers love it because it shows that you can balance multiple commitments,” Fallon said.
According to Fallon, Career Services specifically tries to help these students by listing on-campus jobs and strategizing ways to get others if none are available.
“We’ve had students come in and say ‘I don’t have a car, there are no jobs on-campus, what should I do?’” Fallon said. “We sat and generated an entire list of employers within walking distance of the campus.”
Terri Morris, a talent acquisition manager at Enterprise Holdings, is a common employer of former SU students and thinks that working to pay for college shows a student’s drive, and she challenges that motivation to take them one step further.
“They should try to find internships and other job-related experiences if they have the time in their schedule,” Morris said.
Morris understands that like Jones, not every student can find that time, and she does not hold it against them.
“As long as they are focused on their educational goals, it is certainly reasonable” Morris said.
There were 700 independent students like Jones at SU last year whose median income was $16,200, according to SU’s Financial Aid Office.
The full cost of tuition combined with room and board was $19,180 for in-state students according to U.S. News, so unless they lived in the area, many of those students needed extra help.
Nearly 6,200 undergraduate students at SU received financial aid last year, with a median package of $10,000.
Working to pay for school may look good to employers, but that does not put students whose parents pay for their education at a disadvantage according to Fallon.
“I don’t think any employer will ever size up two candidates and say ‘this candidate worked and went to school, this candidate didn’t, so this candidate is inferior’” Fallon says. “The employer looks at the whole resume.”
Sophomore Austin Dabbs’ parents pay for his education, but he still works for Event Technical Sevices in order to make a little extra spending money.
He is also involved with the Honors Student Association and Theater, and is trying to join the Marketing Excellence club.
His aspiration is to find a job in the business world or open his own startup business, so he is taking Morris’ advice to heart about gaining job-related experience.
“I only try to join things that help me,” Dabbs said. “Some things like HSA are purely resume-builders, while stuff like Marketing Excellence is more practical.”
Even though he is unable to get involved on campus like Dabbs, Jones has learned to be grateful.
“I think what I’ve learned from all this is to appreciate the things I do have, and that life sucks sometimes, but you just have to work through it.”