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Students balance academics, employment

Annie+Mokate%2C+senior+in+AHS%2C+prepares+a+drink+for+a+customer+at+Legends+Bar+and+Grill+in+Champaign+on+Feb.+22.
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Students balance academics, employment

Annie Mokate, senior in AHS, prepares a drink for a customer at Legends Bar and Grill in Champaign on Feb. 22.

Annie Mokate, senior in AHS, prepares a drink for a customer at Legends Bar and Grill in Champaign on Feb. 22.

Alex Sardjev

Annie Mokate, senior in AHS, prepares a drink for a customer at Legends Bar and Grill in Champaign on Feb. 22.

Alex Sardjev

Alex Sardjev

Annie Mokate, senior in AHS, prepares a drink for a customer at Legends Bar and Grill in Champaign on Feb. 22.

By Alex Sardjev, Staff Writer

College students often have part-time jobs, usually to avoid taking out loans to pay their tuition. But now, many students must work to pay for rent, books and other living expenses. 

Issy Marquez, sophomore in LAS, currently works two jobs for a total of 28 hours each week. She splits her time as a Main Library employee and resident adviser in addition to taking 15 credit hours worth of classes, leaving her with little room for a healthy work-life balance. However, Marquez said her employment situation is not unusual. 

“All of my closest friends have at least one job,” Marquez said. “It’s like a mindset; it’s something we have to do.”  

Alex Sardjev
Issy Marquez, sophomore in English and Political Science, searches for a book for a customer at the Main Stacks in the Main Library in Champaign. February 27, 2019.

The University has consistently had the second highest tuition rate among public Big Ten schools over the last decade. The University also has the fourth highest tuition among public universities in the Association of American Universities. Still, students choose to come here in search of opportunities and resources.

“I’m paying for everything myself,” said Emma Young, sophomore in LAS. Young holds three different jobs, though she puts in the most hours at Espresso Royale. Some weeks, she picks up a total of nearly 40 hours to pay back a loan issued by a family member.

Young is enrolled in 16 credit hours; she often feels the effects of having multiple jobs on her academics.

Alex Sardjev
Emma Young, sophomore in Global Studies in Spanish, walks toward the back room of Espresso Royal to wash dishes. February 21, 2019.

“Sometimes I will have time to do homework, but I’m just so tired from everything that I push it aside,” she said. 

Marquez and Young both want to pursue graduate level education; Marquez hopes to enter law school to pursue student advocacy, and Young is considering graduate school for international human rights law.

Though increasingly expensive, college degrees, on average, offer a higher return on investment. Employers across many industries expect new hires to hold some kind of degree.

Several efforts have been made by the University to curb the increasingly high cost of attendance. The Board of Trustees recently approved a fifth-straight tuition freeze for in-state freshmen this coming fall, marking the longest period of unchanged tuition rates since the 1960s.

The University has also attempted to increase scholarship opportunities for students.

“During the 2008-2009 school year the campus awarded about $34 million dollars in aid, and (this school year) the amount awarded is $104 million,” said Michelle Trame, director of student financial aid.

However, she also said scholarship funding has not necessarily kept pace with rising tuition over the past decade.

Stefanie Villalpando, sophomore in LAS, is a student who has benefited from increased scholarship availability. Most of her expenses are covered through Illinois Promise, a program which provides grants and scholarships as long as they hold a part time job throughout their college career.

“I used to work at Four Breakfast and More, but the amount of time they expected us to work there was too much, and my grades and social life were affected,” Villalpando said.

She now works in the Illini Union, where she has found a much better work-life balance.

Alex Sardjev
Stefanie Villalpando, sophomore in Anthropology, smiles after cleaning tables during closing time at the Illini Union Rec Room in Champaign. February 23, 2019.

Need-based scholarships aim to help students from low-income families; often, the students who need them most. But there is little aid of this kind available for middle-income students whose families are also unable to pay for tuition.

Scholarships based on merit also exist, but student workers often have a difficult time earning the credentials needed to stay competitive for these scholarships because of their employment commitments.

“All three of my sisters and I went here at the same time. I think between the four of us we got $400 in aid,” said Annie Mokate, senior in AHS, who works at Legends and at Beckwith Residential Support Services.

Mokate said her family are “in a pretty decent spot” financially, but they have still struggled significantly with attendance costs.

“I don’t know how other people do it,” she said.

Alex Sardjev
Aaron Talbott, sophomore in Animal Science, looks toward a stack of empty boxes during his shift at Domino’s in Champaign. February 21, 2019.

Aaron Talbott, sophomore in ACES and a Domino’s employee, has also felt impactful financial strain. He uses the money from his campus job to pay for his apartment, and he works another job back home, he said.

“I am involved in a couple different things here and my schedule is very busy. I personally average about four hours of sleep a night,” Talbott said. He still plans on graduating with student loan debt.

In trying to make their education more affordable, these part-time student workers sacrifice other parts of their college experience.

“Work and school are fifty-fifty,” Marquez said. “Everything else comes last.”

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Editor’s Note: Legends Bar and Grill was misspelled as Leds. This article has been changed to reflect the correction. The Daily Illini regrets the error.

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