Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Long work hours for high schoolers can hurt college success, study finds

By YANAN CHEN
Capital News Service

LANSING—High school students who work more than 15 hours a week are less likely to complete bachelor’s degrees than those who work less, a new University of Michigan study found.

The study, Monitoring the Future, shows that “working a lot in high school may be shortchanging students’ futures and risking long-term education and health.”

The research by U-M’s Institute for Social Research, tracked more than 68,000 young adults nationwide from 12th grade to their 30s. It suggests that long hours working during the 12th grade hurt students’ chances to complete college.

According to the study, the completion rates for those who worked 15 or fewer hours remain stable at around 52 percent, while the rates drop dramatically with the increase of working time.

Only 20 percent of high schoolers who worked more than 31 hours completed their bachelor’s degrees.

Professor Jerald Bachman, the lead author of the study, said, “At least some students during high school are trading off long-term opportunities for short-term earnings.”

Bachman said, “Most do not save much of their earnings for college. Instead, they treat their earning as spending money.”

Another factor in long hours working, Bachman said, was that some students consider it a way to show “success” in a different sort of environment.

He said the study doesn’t mean high school students cannot work. “I have some advice for high school students. First, limit your paid work to 15 hours per week, preferably less.

“Second, if you do work, you can save a lot of your money for long-term things, such as college, a down payment for a house or an apartment,” Bachman said.

His last advice is that they should use their job as a chance to build a credential as a good and reliable worker. They should also arrange in advance for their supervisor to provide regular ratings and recommendations.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, minors 16 years and older may work fewer than 48 hours per week and six days in one week.

Generally, school districts don’t impose additional restrictions on working hours.

The Community High School in Ann Arbor has no extra restrictions on students’ working hours beyond the state maximum, according to school counselor Diane Grant.

“If we find out students who work a long time, we will talk with them because they are not supposed to do that,” Grant said. “Study is their priority.”

“The reasons for them to work vary from person to person, such as earning money for college, supporting their families and buying their first cars,” she said.

Christine Swadley, a counselor at Marquette Senior High School, said her district also doesn’t have any restriction on working hours.

“Some students work a longer time because they want to earn money to pay for their college tuition fee,” Swadley said.

When told about the U-M study, she said she wants to put it in the school’s newsletter so more students become aware of it.

Cherie Stafford, a counselor at Greenville High School, said her district has no additional restrictions on working hours.

She said it is students’ choices how long to work. “The economy here is very bad. Some students need to earn money and they don’t have another choice.”

Stafford said some students, whose parent or both parents are out of jobs, need to work longer to support the family.

As for the relationship between longer working hour and lower college completion rates, she said, “Not all the students plan to go to a four-year college.”

© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

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