More students balance school with jobs

New report shows surprising trends in Quebec


A long night at work. By star5112 on Flickr.

More than half of full-time university students in Quebec work while attending school and more than 40 per cent of all undergraduates work more than 20 hours weekly says a new study by the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, a provincial lobby group that wants lower tuition.

On top of that, more than twice as many full-time students aged 20 to 24 in the province work part-time jobs than students did in the 1970s.

The workloads are hurting their educations: 43 per cent of full-time undergraduates say that their jobs have negatively affected their studies and 30 per cent say their jobs mean they’ll take longer to finish. It’s worst for PhD students—six in 10 say work forced them to prolong their studies.

It’s not just students in Quebec who are putting in long hours between classes. According to the 2011 Canadian University Survey Consortium study 56 per cent of undergraduates in Canada work. The average number of hours is 18 per week. Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) work more than 30 hours weekly. One third of working students report “a negative impact on their academic performance.”

The latest research also builds on a November 2010 report put out by FÉUQ that said employment income accounts for more than 50 per cent of the average full-time student’s income in Quebec.

Predictably, FÉUQ is using the results of both studies to argue against a tuition increase that will take effect this fall. The hike will see tuition for in-province students rise by $325 a year to $3,793 in 2016.

It’s easy to dismiss FÉUQ’s concerns–the province has the lowest fees in the country. But the fact that so many students are working so much suggests many are already at the breaking point.

It also rebuts the claim by Quebec politicians that the increase would return tuition to 1968-9 levels, adjusted for inflation, which is what finance minister Raymond Bachand told the National Assembly.

The claim that today’s students are paying less than past students has also been a favourite of the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities, which represents administrators.

Perhaps tuition was indeed more expensive in the 1968-9s. But in the 1970s, students could afford to work less in coffee shops and clothing stores—and more on their studies—than students of today.


More students balance school with jobs

  1. Perhaps that is because in the 1970s, students spent less money in coffee shops and clothing stores than students of today.

    • And what are you basing that judgement on David? Have you examined the spending habits of students in the 70s and students now, and the proportion of income they spend on essentials like rent and food? Have you accounted for the increasing cost of tuition and text books? I find it rather offensive, really, since I’m one of those people who has worked full time while studying, and I’ve felt the negative impact on my GPA, and I most certainly did not spend all my money in coffee shops or on clothing. I worked my butt off at my demeaning jobs, packed my lunches and shopped at the Salvation Army store and Value Village, like most of my friends, and lived in crappy crappy apartments with weird roommates and weirder neighbours. There have always been spoiled rich kids, but they don’t define the experience for everyone else.

  2. Chill out, Deborah. I worked full-time during all my school years as well. That doesn’t mean that I don’t notice that most students today claim that they are “poor” but have iPads, iPhones, new laptops, the latest clothes, and plenty of money for booze.

  3. I worked 35+ hours over 3 different jobs (minimum wage jobs) while doing 5 or 6 courses (mandatory amount for my program) when I was in university – for 4 out of 5 years. That was with student loans, and I barely made ends meet. I’m from Newfoundland where we have some of the lowest tuition in the country (~$1500/semester for 5 courses).

    My marks didn’t suffer, in fact, they improved. It taught me to balance my time fairly, and not to procrastinate. It also have me an appreciation for what I was doing – that degree wasn’t going to earn itself. It kept me out of trouble (nobody needs George Street every Friday and Saturday night). It kept me focused. I feel that I am better for it, and appreciate my degrees.

    Most students work because they have to, not because they want to. Either to pay their tuition so they don’t have student loans, to pay rent because student loans don’t cover your cost of living, or because they want to uphold their standard of living. I see nothing wrong with that, and actually, I see it as a sign of maturity – they are willing to work for what they have instead of having Mom or Dad foot the bill.

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