Full-time employment during college insufficient to cover tuition costs

With the 2014 average debt of MU graduates coming to nearly $25,000, students work both full and part time in attempts to afford college.
MU student Riann Pena slices a bagel for a customer at the Bookmark Cafe in Ellis Library Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. The Bookmark Cafe is one of many on-campus businesses that employ MU students.

While costs of attending MU continue to rise, the state’s minimum wage remains stagnant, putting additional strain on students attempting to pay for college by working.

Even if a Missouri resident student worked full time for an entire year making the minimum wage, which is $7.50 in Missouri, they would fall $8,000 short. A non-resident would be about $23,000 short.

In 2013, the average debt of MU graduates was $24,875, according to the Projection on Student Debt. Fifty-five percent of 2013 graduates were in debt, and MU tuition is expected to increase, according to a Jan. 21 Maneater article.

Some students work full time in order to cope with climbing costs. In Missouri, 20 to 24.9 percent of college undergraduates worked full time, year-round in 2011, according the Census Bureau.

MU graduate student Benjamin Schrimpf is a full-time graduate research assistant for the university. Through this full-time position, Schrimpf’s entire tuition fee is waived; he only has to pay MU’s course enrollment fees.

“The tuition waiver was a huge stress relief, and is the only reason I continued my education,” Schrimpf said.

Before working as a full-time graduate research assistant, Schrimpf said, he would not have been able to afford the various expenses of college. Schrimpf began his work as a research assistant during his sophomore year of undergraduate studies, and continues to work there four years later.

His parents helped him pay for his sophomore year of college, but the other years he paid out of pocket, relying on work and scholarships to get him by financially.

“It’s a complete and total mess,” Schrimpf said. “Even just talking to them and trying to get the loans worked out is almost impossible. The cashier’s office and financial aid departments at MU are just completely disorganized, in my experiences.”

Schrimpf said he anticipates to be about $6,000 to $7,000 in debt after graduate school.

Even with working full time, data shows that it’s nearly impossible for an MU student to completely pay for their college expenses without having money already saved, or receiving a tuition waiver.

In 2014, the average cost for a Missouri resident enrolled in 15 credit hours at MU was $23,597. Non-residents paid $38,624, according to MU’s website. Yet, students who work 40 hours per week for an entire year making minimum wage would come up short.

In order to make enough money to pay for the 2014 average cost of attending MU, a Missouri resident would either have to work 40 hours per week making $11.35 an hour, or 61 hours a week at minimum wage. To achieve the same goal, a non-resident student would have to either work 40 hours a week making $20 an hour, or 100 hours per week at minimum wage.

MU senior Ashley Szatala is currently taking 18 credit hours and works as an editor for Vox Magazine, which makes working full time impossible. She does work part time as a student supervisor at Baja Grill. It’s her third year working there.

“Even with my supervisor pay at Baja, I still do not have enough to cover my rent, books, any emergencies that develop and even to go out,” Szatala said.

Szatala also wants to make sure she has a life outside of work.

While Szatala said her parents help her pay for some expenses, she still doesn’t always have enough money. Szatala said she picks up extra shifts in order to cope with this issue.

“This is my sixth day in a row working,” Szatala said.

MU senior Cece Tsevas is a part-time student supervisor at the Starbucks in Memorial Union. Despite working roughly 24 hours a week, Tsevas said she still doesn’t have enough money.

“I’m always broke,” Tsevas said. “I live paycheck to paycheck.”

Tsevas’ parents are helping her with some of the various college expenses. Without their help, Tsevas said, she couldn’t afford to go to MU.

Tsevas described working that many hours per week while attending school as awful.

“I wake up, I go to work at 6:30 a.m., and then get off at 12 p.m. and go straight to class,” Tsevas said. “Or I wake up, go to class and then go straight to work. I feel like I have no free time, ever.”

Though many employed students still struggle to get by financially, the university has several resources for students needing to make money.

According to records, MU spent an additional $57.4 million on student employment in 2014.

MU provides students with Hire Mizzou Tigers, a website listing various job openings around the area. Students are able to sign in with their university login and fill out a profile, which will filter the career results.

The service also offers workshops to help students with the job search and interview processes, including an Interview Basics workshop 5 p.m. Wednesday in Lafferre Hall W1004.

Career counselors are also available through the Career Center to guide students in their job searching processes. Other services help students with financial issues.

In 2014, MU federal loans totaled $195.8 million and alternative loans totaled $18.3 million, according to MU’s records.

Freshman Rebecca Burkhart said she is paying for her entire college tuition, along with the costs of joining different organizations, by herself. Burkhart’s parents had to pay for school on their own. Burkhart said they’re trying to teach her the way they were taught: Not everything will be handed to her in life.

Burkhart currently works part time at Sophia’s, a restaurant in south Columbia. She also works at several different places over holiday and summer breaks.

“It’s not easy, I can tell you that,” Burkhart said. “When the payments come in the mail, they kind of give you a mini-heart attack knowing you have to pay that much.”

Burkhart said while financial aid helps, it’s far from covering everything. She had a scholarship last semester and one this semester, but Burkhart said the amount wasn’t enough to make a drastic difference.

Burkhart expects to have accumulated about $40,000 to 50,000 of student loans by the time she graduates.

“I feel like for most students, they kind of just have it easy. Their parents pay for everything … They don’t really have to worry about how much things cost,” Burkhart said.

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