Combining School and Work
Among traditional students, 30 percent did not work while enrolled, and another 67 percent worked but still considered themselves to be primarily students (figure 2). The remaining 3 percent considered themselves primarily employees who enrolled in school. In sharp contrast, 67 percent of highly nontraditional students and 37 percent of moderately nontraditional students considered themselves primarily employees. Even minimally nontraditional students were more likely than traditional students to consider themselves primarily employees (10 versus 3 percent).
Working while enrolled can have benefits. Among employed undergraduates who considered themselves primarily students, 26 percent thought that working helped them with their coursework, and 55 percent thought it helped prepare them for a career (table 4). There were generally no measurable differences between traditional and nontraditional students, with the exception that highly nontraditional students were slightly more likely than traditional or minimally nontraditional students to find that working helped them with their coursework.
Working can interfere with school as well as provide benefits. Undergraduates who worked but considered themselves primarily students sometimes found that working limited their class schedule (46 percent), the number of classes they could take (39 percent), their choice of classes (33 percent), or their access to the library (30 percent). Nontraditional students who worked were more likely than their traditional counterparts to report each of these limitations, and in each case, the more nontraditional they were, the more likely they were to report these problems. Among highly nontraditional students, the proportions reporting these limitations ranged from about one-half to almost three-quarters.
Students sometimes report that working has a negative effect on their grades. Highly and moderately nontraditional students (47 and 43 percent, respectively) were more likely than minimally nontraditional students (35 percent) to report this effect, and traditional students (25 percent) were the least likely to do so.
Students who considered themselves primarily employees were asked if certain factors were important considerations in their decision to enroll in postsecondary education while working. Regardless of how nontraditional they were, 73 percent or more reported that personal enrichment or interest in the subject, gaining skills to advance in their job or for a new career, and completing a degree or certificate program were important considerations (figure 3). Far fewer (30 to 37 percent) indicated that obtaining additional education required for their job was an important consideration. Too few traditional students considered themselves primarily employees (3 percent) to make comparisons (figure 2).
Figures and Tables
Figure 2: Percentage distribution of undergraduates according to their primary role, by student status: 1999–2000
Figure 3: Among nontraditional undergraduates who considered themselves primarily employees, percentage who reported each factor to be an important consideration in their decision to enroll, by factor and nontraditional status: 1999–2000
Table 4: Percentage of undergraduates working while enrolled but considering themselves primarily students who reported various effects of working, by student status: 1999–2000
Table FS2: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of undergraduates according to their primary role, by student status: 1999–2000
Table FS3: Standard errors among nontraditional undergraduates who considered themselves primarily employees, percentage who reported each factor to be an important consideration in their decision to enroll, by factor and nontraditional status: 1999–2000
Table S4: Standard errors for the percentage of undergraduates working while enrolled but considering themselves primarily students who reported various effects of working, by student status: 1999–2000