Jim is sad. Why is he sad? Because he’s broke

By James VandeBerg

Like many college students, Louis Ward wanted to spend the summer earning money for the upcoming school year. Unfortunately for Ward, a currently over-saturated job market for students prevented that from happening.

“I felt stressed out that I wasn’t earning enough money to be able to support myself during the year,” said Ward, junior in LAS.

Ward is dealing with the aftermath of a dilemma many students are facing – not getting as many hours as they would have liked at their summer jobs. They are now facing the prospect of a new school year, rising prices and less money in their bank accounts.

Finding jobs this year was more difficult than in past summers. Unemployment rates in Illinois topped out at 7.3 percent in July, the highest level since 1993, according to Illinois’ Department of Employment Security.

This has led to noticeable difficulty in finding jobs that give the desired number of hours for some students.

“I was working two jobs … I got about 15 hours a week at one and 10 hours a week at the other, which is only 25 when I would have liked to have been working full time,” said Ward.

Ward decided he wanted a job in an office setting but had trouble finding a position that did not require advanced experience and never heard back from many of the companies he contacted during his job hunt.

Part of the trouble is essentially a cap on hours at many of the places considered ideal for summer employment.

“I work maybe eight to 20 hours a week at American Eagle, but it’s usually on the lower end,” said Jacob Long, a senior at Illinois State University.

Most jobs in food service, park districts and clothing stores are part time unless one has a management position. The four- or five-hour shifts common at many of these establishments, combined with the required days off, can make it difficult to get more than 20 hours per week, Long said.

The low wages found at many of these jobs also affects students’ wallets. The minimum wage in Illinois is $7.75, and many part-time jobs pay no more than a dollar or so above that amount.

Gas prices, books, parking and other costs add up quickly, forcing many students to carefully budget their resources. Parking puts a severe dent in many students’ pockets, as the rate for the University’s student parking permits has increased to $480 per year.

“I’m being ripped off on something that I can’t avoid … it’s not a luxury. I can’t always take the bus to get groceries,” said Ward.

The University’s parking prices compare unfavorably to those at other state schools, such as Illinois State University, where virtually all student apartments come with at least one free parking spot, said Brett Gould, a senior at ISU.

With parking considered a necessary expense by many, students are finding other ways to cut back.

“I’ll probably spend more time in the library, rather than wasting money buying books and eat out less often,” said Ward. “And up the student loan amounts and go even further into debt.”