The New Normal: Earning While Learning

As per a recent survey, more than 70 percent of college students have been earning a paycheck for the past 25 years. Thanks to the introduction of tuition fees, students face massive costs and earning while learning seems to be the only way out.

Putting aside the numerous intangible benefits of working while in college for a moment, let’s address the question from a purely economic perspective. At first glance, going to college can seem like a financial impossibility for many. There are many children in countries like India, whose families can’t afford to provide them with graduate degrees. If the students are dedicated enough to learn, they have to earn themselves.

Here’s a quick look at the tremendous advantages of earning while learning.

  • Earning while learning is more than a necessity. The reasons behind college-going students working while studying is much beyond the poor financial conditions of the families they belong to. It could rather be said that students learn more while they work, as compared to their learning in the confines of the college classrooms.
  • Working learners are more concerned about enhancing their résumés and gaining work experience than paying for tuition. Young working learners aged 16-29 make very different decisions compared to mature working learners aged 30-54 when it comes to majors selected, hours worked, and career choices.
  • Students who work are upwardly mobile, much more aware of the working conditions, corporate ethics and the world that they are going to enter. Hence, they will be prepared, emotionally and mentally, for the changes after graduation . Moreover, they are likely to move into managerial positions, as a result of the experience they have gained during studying, as compared to the non-working learners.
  • Working learners develop stronger ties between the worlds of work and education. Among all programs for working learners in post-secondary institutions, learning and earning is the common one. The available career counselling in colleges is very limited and rarely based on any data about the economic value of college majors. Hence, if the students are aware of their corporal value, they can choose wisely.
  • Most of the aspirants tend to gain corporate experience initially and then get into post graduate flagship programs. The traditional Bachelor’s degree-centric model has limited utility in a world focused on workforce development. The already working graduates benefit from their work experience, which becomes an asset when they enter the full-time job market.

According to a study, from 1989 to 2008, 70 per cent to 80 per cent of undergraduates were employed. Students work whether they are in high school or college; whether they are rich, poor, or somewhere in between; whether they are young and inexperienced or mature and experienced. For instance, internships and community-based projects appear to lead students into jobs that offer new challenges, serve a social purpose, and provide opportunities for continued learning.

Even for the adults, who want to study more, can rely on working while learning. The new educational technologies have revolutionized the way students get their college degrees. Instead of choosing to pursue school or work, a growing number of adult professionals enjoy both, without having to sacrifice personal and family commitments.

Today’s job market rewards employees who demonstrate the ability to work independently and manage their own time. Students who take online college courses while working full time can customize their degree programs and avoid taking pay cuts or missing out on the family time. A growing number of employers are also offering tuition reimbursement for online degree programs, which allows employees to keep working full-time.

More attention should be paid to the pathways from education to work. The rise in the number of working learners is a natural evolution of our work-based society. Early work experience forms good habits and helps students make better career connections.

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