Go to work, young woman and young man. If you want a college education, go to work. If you are already working, work harder.
That is one of the messages in President Reagan's fiscal 1983 budget. As a source in the U.S. Education Department puts it: "If a student could work 15 hours a week during term, at the minimum wage, and save $700 from a summer job, he could pay $2,400 a year toward his education."
Unfortunately, the student employment situation is spotty. In the more prosperous parts of the nation--generally, the energy-producing states--jobs for young people are available. In other areas, jobs are scarce. Even a student willing to take any job, at any wage, may not find work that fits into his school schedule.
The encouraging news on student employment opportunities comes from cities like Austin, home of the University of Texas. Not only is there no recession in Austin, but the city has a low unemployment rate, even for Texas. More Texas students need work, because of rising tuition and reduced student aid--and the jobs are there.
Like many other schools, the University of Texas runs a student employment referral service for part-time work, on or off campus. "We go to employers in the community and tell them of our service," Donald Davis, associate director of the financial aid office at the university, told my associate, Virginia Wilson. "Last year we were able to refer about 5,000 students and this year we're about 15 to 20 percent ahead."
The university also has a jobs hotline that students can call 24 hours a day, and a microfiche reader, for checking out jobs listed by the Texas Employment Commission.
But the picture is bleaker at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. "There are 32 percent fewer part-time job offers coming in as compared with last year, and last year was lower than the previous year," reports Gary Belleville, who directs the university's student employment service. About 60 percent of the students work to help pay their expenses. The shrunken job market has forced some to drop out of school.
"Two years ago we could find work for all those who were interested, but today about half of the student job-seekers will have a difficult time," Belleville says.
The university advertises for student jobs, and runs job pools. Students can join the handy-person pool for doing odd jobs around the house, the clerical pool, the house-painting pool, the snow-shoveling pool. Employers call these pools when they need help.
The biggest loss in part-time jobs is in stores and restaurants. "People don't seem to be eating out that much any more," Belleville says, "and there hasn't been much of a Christmas rush in recent years. Stores have been hiring permanent part-timers (such as wives going back to work) instead of students."
Princeton University has a different approach. Agencies run and staffed by students handle most of the products and services sold on campus--things like birthday cakes, pizza, beer mugs, newspaper delivery, refrigerator rentals, class rings, typewriters, Christmas wreaths and football souvenirs.
Student managers keep 90 percent of the profits, after paying salaries and expenses. "Profitable agencies continue even after the student with the original idea graduates," says Bob Cunningham, Princeton's director of student employment.
In general, colleges think that students can work more than 20 hours a week without hurting their grades. But work, more of them must.
Joan Hopf, coordinator of the job-placement center at Westchester Community College of New York, advises prospective students to ask about part-time and summer-month employment before signing a tuition check. "Find out what's available," she says, "and how successful students are in landing jobs." You will need the most aggressive job-placement service you can find