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Working while learning and the modern cost of college

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When Bella Centeno thought of college, she had pictured herself in New York City studying interior design at her dream university--The Fashion Institute of Technology. Centeno is 19-years-old and spent two years at her local community college in Lansing, Michigan before being accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology. However, Centeno said she has decided not to attend that university. Instead, she chose a cheaper option and plans to stay home and study at Michigan State University.

“I got the bill statement and it was so much more money than what I was expecting and I was receiving close to no help,” Centeno said. “It was my dream school and location to be, I worked really hard to get into that school, but it didn’t make sense,” she added.

Centeno, like many other college students, is paying for college by herself. According to a theladders.com article, a survey found that only 11 % of college students said they are not contributing to paying for college.

When her older sister graduated high school, Centeno said she learned she was going to have to pay for her own education.

"My parents told both of us, ‘We’ll help you as much as we can, but ultimately it's up to you--you’re on your own,” she said.



The price of attending higher education has increased by more than double since the 1980’s, according to a Businessinsider article. Additionally, a Student loan Hero report stated that wages have increased by 67% since 1970, however the price of college tuition has also increased and at a faster rate.

Students can pay for college in a variety of ways, however with the increasing costs, college students today may face unique challenges.

Sarah Padilla, a freshman psychology and Spanish student at Valparaiso University said she had to ask family members to co-sign private loans with her to be able to fully cover her tuition.

“My parents have really bad credit and so they could not help me cosign on a private loan to help me pay for the rest of my tuition that I owed,” Padilla said, “I just felt completely awful having to ask other family members.”

Padilla also said that she knew from a young age that she was going to have to pay for college by herself. She said she recalled when she was younger her dad would tell her that she had to do well in school, because her parents would be unable to help her cover the costs of college.

“Ever since I heard that, I worked so hard every day and it paid off,” she said.

The majority of her tuition was covered through scholarships, grants, and financial aid from her university, where she runs cross country and track, Padilla said.

Despite working throughout her time in high school, Padilla was unable to save up as much money as she had hoped for college.

“I had to pay for a lot of my own things, so I didn’t get to save as much as I wanted to,” Padilla said.

Despite the challenges, she decided that it was worth it to further her education, and she tries not to be worried about handling student debt after graduating.

“I try not to get in my head about that because to me, my education is more important.”

Emily Shippey, a freshman nursing major at Lansing Community College, in Lansing, Michigan, also said she was only slightly concerned about handling loans after she graduates.

“I am very fortunate in the fact that I do pretty well financially and my fiance does not have any loans,” she said.

Shippey is also paying for her college education utilizing loans. She said she also works part time as well as attending school. Shippey said that sometimes working while being a full time student can be stressful, but it has taught her a lot.

”I do think working does impact your grades and it does impact your education-- I think overall it does make you more of a well-rounded student,” Shippey said.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity that I have to grow as a person and grow as an adult and understand my responsibilities, I think it will definitely help me,” she added.

According to an insidehighered article, a survey reported that 70 percent of college

said they work while enrolled in school, however the work experience and hours may vary.

For Centeno, her work week can consist of up to 30 hours a week.

”I think there's both good and bad aspects to working. I think the good outweighs the bad because working while you're going to school makes you more frugal and appreciate more of what you have,” she said.

However, some students may struggle to handle their schedule and forget to take care of themselves. According to MHA.org, juggling work on top of school can lead to the neglect of mental and physical health.

“Your basic needs--getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and exercising, often get lost or lose priority when you’re balancing work, school and socializing,” an article stated.

“You don’t have a lot of time for yourself, to make sure you’re doing okay,” Centeno added.

However, the solution is not as simple as cutting back hours at work for some students. According to an article published on The Atlantic, a quarter of all students are full time workers, and 40% of students work 30 hours a week. For some students, working while attending college is not merely an option, but a requirement in order to afford the costs of college.

Financial challenges and student debt may lead some students to become frustrated with the education system in America.

“I don’t like the American educational system because it doesn’t provide equal opportunities for all students,” Centeno said, “ Students shouldn’t end up with student loan debt that’s as high as the average priced home in the United States.”


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