Employed While Enrolled: U Students Seek Jobs for Necessity and Opportunity


Storey McDonald

(Graphic by Storey McDonald | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Stephanie Hong, News Writer


In 2018, 43% of all full-time undergraduate students and 81% of part-time students worked a job while pursuing their degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

For Chloe Lee, a University of Utah senior studying urban ecology, being employed while enrolled has been both a necessity and an opportunity.

“I have been working at the campus store in the order fulfillment department … since September,” Lee said. “The biggest reason I do both my studies and work is to cover my living expenses, and I wanted to meet more diverse students by working on campus.”

As an international student, Lee said her tuition is expensive.

“International students cannot work off campus in the United States, so I chose the on-campus job, which offers students various benefits,” she said.

Lee also said being a student makes it hard to work full time without taking a leave of absence in order to cover her tuition.

“I know my parents feel burdened with paying for my tuition, so I try various things, including internships and part-time jobs,” she said.

According to Lee, the main campus store offers student-worker discounts, Starbucks discounts and a variety of other small benefits. However, she said she can notice a difference in her academic performance when she is trying to balance work and school at the same time. When she first came to the United States, she did not work for a month and was able to better adapt to the new semester and devote most of her energy to school.

“When I am studying and working at the same time, especially because I am currently in charge of morning shifts in the campus store, I can use the time of the day efficiently, but sometimes it is physically difficult,” Lee said.

When she was attending the U Asia Campus in Korea, Lee worked at off-campus jobs such as English academies and convenience stores and had internships at international organizations.

“In the case of on-campus, it takes a relatively short time to go to work because I work in school, and it helps me use my spare time efficiently,” Lee said. “Also, as a student worker at a large institution called ‘University,’ I feel a sense of belonging compared to off-campus part-time jobs.”

According to Lee, unlike on-campus jobs, which deal mainly with students and school staff, off-campus opportunities serve more diverse customers or employers who are experts in more fields.

“Everything I [learned] off-campus allowed me to have various views on the world,” she said.

When Lee has to study and work at the same time, she tries to finish all of her work in the hours between classes or on her days off.

“In the case of a full-time internship, it is impossible to [do] it with the semester. I took a leave of absence and focused on the internship,” she said.

According to Anthony Jones, the executive director at the University Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, the U has over 6,000 student employees on campus.

“Student workers are paid through the same system all U employees are,” Jones said. “They are paid bi-weekly and this is also the case with federal work-study employees.”

Jones said student workers are under the same umbrella as U employees and they generally work part-time.

“Although we do not have any scholarships limited to student workers, student workers may request their supervisor for a letter of recommendation to apply for scholarships,” Jones said.

Jeffrey Satoshi Pedersen, the Federal Work-Study Program manager at the University Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, said the FWS Program helps students get involved in work related to their studies and engage in community service.

“Within that scope, there are many benefits, such as a student developing professional relationships with departments involved in FWS, which can improve a student’s career success after graduation,” Pederson said.

According to Jones, international students typically do not qualify for FWS.

“[That] does not exclude them completely from being able to work through other programs that the University offers,” Jones said. “Ultimately, the status of an international student’s visa is their determination for work eligibility.”

Working as a student can be difficult, but Lee said it has enriched her time at the U.

“It is never easy to do both studies and work, but I feel that working improves my time management and communication skills,” Lee said. “Meeting and working with various people is a valuable experience and another kind of study that cannot be learned in textbooks.”


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