Does Working While in College Influence Grade Performance?
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
HARPER, B D (2009). Does Working While in College Influence Grade Performance?. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 12. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved August 19, 2017 .

Does Working While in College Influence Grade Performance?
BRIAN HARPER
Department of Psychology University of Central Missouri

Sponsored by: PATRICIA MARSH (pmarsh@ucmo.edu)
ABSTRACT

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Abstract

This research study examined the effects of working (i.e., employment) on the academic performance of college students. The participants were recruited through the SONA system at the psychology department of the University of Central Missouri. The method used was a 68 item survey that students answered regarding their school and work activities and the students were asked to self-report their previous semester’s grades and GPA. The researcher expects to find a positive correlation between poor academic performance and working while enrolled.

 

 

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Does Working While In College Influence Grade Performance?

            Many times people wondered, if they had gone to college or finished their degree would they be better off?  Often times people who are enrolled in school, and work full time, seem to have lower grades, which does not match their full potential. When a student does not work at their full potential they lose money over time and work at reduced efficiency costing employer’s money as well. Part time workers who also go to school do not seem to have as large impact to their grades as full time students, suggesting that the amount of hours worked has the largest impact on grade performance. This study’s aim is to examine whether there is a correlation between grades and the hours worked by college students.

            The effects of working while in school need to be thoroughly studied and any negative effects the students receive that need to be identified and alleviated. With approximately 57% of college students working while in school according to Miller, Danner, and Staten (2008) the possibility of discovering a way to improve performance should not be overlooked. By improving overall student performance, you can improve the world as a whole by providing a far more effective and efficient workforce. Other positive effects include an improved overall morale from increased overall success and, increased productivity and advancement of society and technology from the more successful and educated populous. 

 One study Hawkins et al., “Presented strong evidence for work’s potentially negative impact on academic progress, reporting that 88% of working students in their study believed work interfered with their studies at least “somewhat” and of those, 33% reported it interfered ‘much’ to ‘greatly’” (as cited in Miller, Danner, & Staten, 2008, p.675). With so many students noticing an impact on their own academic progress, it’s obvious that the problem is not a hidden or unknown one. Although you cannot control how a student performs in school, you can give all the students possible the best possible chance to succeed they can have.

            With such negative impact potential it should be obvious that working while in school should be minimized if at all possible. The number of hours worked or type of job can reduce the effects on academic performance. According to Fur and Elling (2000) “…81% of students who worked 20 or more hours per week believed that work “frequently negatively impacts academic progress” (as cited in Miller et al., 2008, p.675). “In a similar vein, students who worked 30 or more hours per week were more likely to report that financial worries negatively affected academic progress,” (p.675). The more hours one works will naturally take time and energy away from the student’s school activities and performance

Many people who work for more than spending money don’t often end up working where they intend to work once they attain their degree and, therefore find that the job they currently have impacts their school work negatively. Also, some jobs offer higher stress and more time consuming activities than others which can further hamper students from achieving their best possible performance in school.  Astin (1993) “also reported that some types of employment were negatively associated with GPA and completion of a bachelor’s degree” (as cited in Miller et al., 2008, pg.675). Although working while in college can have a negative effect on grades, many other factors can play a role in whether or not working affects grades such as year in school.

            A student’s year in school can be a factor that dictates how much working can affect the student’s grade. First year students seem to be less effected by working at school as there are many more factors effecting first year students, (Mc Innis, 2001 as cited in Applegate & Daly, 2006). First year students tend to have to deal with new things such as fitting in to a new environment and coping with new living conditions. First year students overcome these other factors fairly quickly, however, and as they learn to cope with all these new factors they can actually improve their skills just by learning to cope and, having a job can facilitate this process.

Working can have a positive effect, giving students experience and knowledge outside the classroom (Applegate & Daly, 2006). This can bode especially true for students with employment directly related to their major. Employment can also have the added benefit of lowering the overall cost of school therefore reducing the strain on the student to fund college through loans or other means (Applegate & Daly, 2006). By working while in school, students can pay for loans and other college expenses out of pocket and avoid larger school re-payments when school has ended (Applegate & Daly, 2006).

            As stated earlier, the main effect of working at school is directly related to the amount of hours worked. Students working under twenty hours a week showed little effect on academic performance, while those working over twenty hours showed significant effect (Applegate & Daly, 2006). And in some cases, working under twenty hours a week seemed to improve academic performance (Applegate & Daly, 2006). This result is significant as it seems to show that when a balance of working and school is achieved, it can actually improve academic performance and increase overall chances of success by giving the student real world experience. This finding coupled with students working in their particular field of study should significantly improve academic performance.

            The number of working hours is by far the largest contributing factor to a student’s poor academic performance in a working environment. Working full time and taking a full class load can take up 12 hours a day five days a week leaving very little if any time for the student to study or do anything related to school. Working part time is the best choice for students as many part time jobs work around the student’s schedule and gives the student more time to balance work, school, and life in a much more efficient manner. Many part time jobs offer the student a chance to earn the student the money they need and the real life skills they need to succeed in the real world. Moreover, many universities off jobs on campus that allow for a student to work with his or her school schedule and even many times allows the student to work in their field of study.

            Working in a field that directly deals with your chosen degree can give a student a significant advantage in their studies and sometimes working can have a positive effect on school studies. According to Lewis (2008) working with others can improve a student’s critical thinking skills and collaboration skills. Real world skill can improve student’s performance in the classroom giving them the ability to rise above their peers and succeed at levels higher than without that experience (Lewis, 2008).  Working can also give students the ability to interact with others which can be especially beneficial in the long run as the ability to interface well with others can have many benefits.

            Another study directly attributes parent’s lack of funding to students’ having to work, and this seems to be the general theme to why students work through college (Holmes, 2008). This fact seems to be given a new importance as the number of students working in school has risen to over sixty percent (Moore, 2007). With so many students working, a better form of funding for students should be devised and employed to increase overall effectiveness of the higher education system.

This leads to another reason students have to work more, there is less funding for federal projects such as work study, (Lipka, 2007). Many to most students take advantage of for some if not all of their school costs through other sources of money other than their own. Federal sources of money are one of the largest sorces of money currently avalible to students but lately the money has become scarce. While the financial burden of the higer education should not be placed entirely on the people of the whole contry, such a system could have good reciprical benefits, constantly regenerating revenue with increasingly sucessful students re-paying the money they used in taxes. 

In conclusion, working in school can have a negative effect on academic performance of students in college setting. This study seeks to find that correlation between working and the academic performance of students as well as looking into other aspects of influence on the performance of students. Many of the factors will be examined such as type of job, hours worked, degree sought by the student, and others.   

Method

Participants

Participants were 96 psychology students from the University of Central Missouri consisting students that all were 18 years or older. Students were recruited through the SONA system of the University of Central Missouri’s Psychology department.

Materials

The materials used were a) flyer to advertise the study, b) The SONA system of the psychology department, which was used to recruit participants electronically, and c) a 69 item electronic survey (using Simple Survey Builder), which took approximately 30 minutes to complete. The survey collected information related to student’s work, academic, and personal activities as well as having the student self report their grade.

Procedure

Students were recruited using the psychology department of the University of Central Missouri’s SONA system. The SONA system is a web based participant management application. This system allows participants to be recruited and then directed to the electronic online survey to complete at will, giving the participants the flexibility to complete the survey where and when they please allowing students that have busy work and school schedules to complete the survey as they are my target group.  Once the students completed the survey the data were entered into SPSS.

 

Results

            The survey data was entered into the SPSS 16.0 program from the 96 student’s surveys. The non-parametric chi-squared test was run on the data and three significant findings were found. The first significant finding seems to show that working has an effect on a student’s grade, χ²(1, 96)=40.042, p<.001. Furthermore, for those who worked, working full time also seems to have had an effect on the GPA for those students, χ²(1, 96)=50.241, p<.001. The last significant finding was that also a student’s expected degree achievement can have an effect on their GPA, χ²(3, 96)=36.833, p<.001

Discussion

These results suggest that working can have a negative effect on student’s academic performance and also working full time seems to have a similar effect. The final result of expected degree completion was an unexpected result with students expecting to complete a master’s degree having a higher GPA. 

 However, some limitations to this study can hide some potential benefits to working while in college. This study did not specifically try to find students who were in work study or any other degree related work. These types of jobs need to be studied further as these types of jobs can have a positive effect on work performance and should be studied further.

            Other limitations such as scale need to be taken into account as this study needs to be completed on a much larger scale to get a broader and more representative sample of the students.  Finally, a larger sample of students with differing degree expectations needs to be analyzed to find if degree expectation can have a real effect on grade performance.

References

Applegate, C., & Daly, A. (2006). The impact of paid work on the academic performance of students: A case study from the University of Canberra. Australian Journal of Education, 50, 155-166.    

Holmes, V. (2008). Working to live: Why university students balance full-time study and employment. Education + Training, 50, 305-314.

Miller K., Danner F., & Statem R. (2008). Relationship of work hours with selected health behaviors and academic progress among a college student cohort. Journal of American College Health, 56, 675-679.

Lewis, J. S. (2008). Student workers can learn more on the job. Chronicle of Higher Education, 54, A56-A56.

Lipka, S. (2007). More students seek campus jobs as work-study positions dwindle. Chronicle of Higher Education, A40-A41.

Moore, D. P. (2007). Part-time Students. College Planning & Management, 10, 6.

 


 

 

Figure caption

Figure 1.Student’s GPA scored compared between those who work and those who do not work.

Figure 2. Student’s GPA when compared their expected level of degree completion

Figure 3. Working student’s GPA when compared to whether they work part time or full time.



 

Attachments

Submitted 05/04/2009
Accepted 05/28/2009

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