Between heavy activities and jobs, a tight balance

by Zachary Goldstein | 11/18/03 6:00am

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles that will explore how students tackle the costs of college outside of tuition.

For Donald Jolly '04, there simply aren't enough hours in the day. Jolly works up to 36 hours a week in the Mainstage theater productions, in addition to class time and outside of class work associated with taking a regular three-course Dartmouth term. One would say that Jolly's schedule is pretty much full. But there's more to his story.

Jolly is a financial aid recipient, and as such, part of his financial aid requirement is work-study. A typical financial aid package has a work-study requirement of 10 to 12 hours per week. Add that to Jolly's already brimming schedule, and something else is going to have to go.

However, the Financial Aid office says there's no reason why students would have to sacrifice any extracurricular activities that they would otherwise be able to do because of work-study requirements. Technically, work-study falls under the "self-help" category which also includes loans. Students who wish to forgo work-study, or are simply too busy can replace work-study with additional loans.

"Self-help is job and loans. How that's broken down is really up to the students," said Virginia Hazen, Director of Financial Aid. "Self-help really is up to you to decide how you want it. We start off by packaging 10-12 hours a week in work-study, because we don't like students loading up on loans. Then if you're doing a lot in the way of extracurricular activities, you can come to us and say, 'I really prefer to have that in loans and not as work.'"

For Jolly, that was the only conceivable option this term, and he has chosen to decrease his work-study contribution to just six hours per week to accommodate his burgeoning schedule.

There are only 120 hours in a standard work week. In theory, 40 of those should be spent sleeping (though allotting eight hours of sleep per week for the average college student may be overestimating). That leaves just 80 hours a week for everything else. And for Dartmouth students, everything else can sometimes entail quite a bit of work.

The average student spends 10 hours per week in class, and around 15 hours per week on work outside of class. That brings the number of hours available for "free time" down to 55. Throw in 30 hours of extracurricular activities, and that total is down to 25 -- hardly enough time to hold down a steady job for 10 hours a week and find time for necessities like eating.

For Student Assembly President Janos Marton '04, the prospect of having a job this term and working 15 hours per week for the Assembly just wasn't too appealing.

"It is almost impossible to have classes, have an extracurricular activity you're really involved in and hold a job," Marton said. "For full course loads I have found that its better to not have a job and take out more loans instead, since the Dartmouth 10-week term lends itself to some tough weeks even without having to work."

Marton said the loss of the work-study contribution is not that big of a hit anyway, because "work-study dollar amounts are a little unreasonable to start with." Many students on work-study earn close to minimum wages.

"Even terms I've worked I haven't been able to meet the quota," Marton said.

Stella Treas '05, acting President of the Green Key Society and Vice President of the SA Student Life Committee, though not on financial aid herself, agreed that the payment offered for most jobs around campus isn't enough to convince her to decrease her extracurricular involvement.

"There's definitely money I'd like to go out and earn, but even if I worked 10 hours per week, that's like 60 [dollars] per week, and that's just not worth giving up on the activities that I do and that I'm committed to," Treas said.

Even though forgoing work-study results in increased loans for the term, Marton does not view the extra loans as a particular burden, in exchange for the ability to participate in activities he enjoys around campus.

"Most students with strong extracurricular interests at Dartmouth will be able to pay off their loans quicker working after College than during, so I just suck it up, take more loans, and enjoy college," Marton said.

Jolly agreed with Marton.

"I never thought of it as a punishment," Jolly said in reference to the need for increased loans in lieu of work-study. "It could be a deterrent for some people to get really involved in something. I feel like giving grants or scholarships would be a better idea if they want people to stay involved in the Dartmouth community, but I don't know what else could be done."

The only problem that arises from students opting out of their work-study requirement, according to Hazen, is that students sometimes choose not to inform the Financial Aid office that they have chosen not to participate in work-study for a term, leading to the need for last-minute loans.

"Work-study would be like taking a fourth class," Treas said. "A normal person at Dartmouth could not do it and still do the extra-curriculars they love."

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