I've seen a couple of news stories in the last few days about how the tightening credit market may affect student loans. Having just finished getting the kids through school, Mike and I were commiserating with these families. One thing that stood out, though, was the fact that some of the people interviewed really couldn't imagine choosing a state school over a private one, or working part time while they went to school, or choosing a school close enough to home that they didn't have serious travel expenses to come home for holidays. I guess what the student loan crisis is really doing is limiting options for students who were not used to thinking within those boundaries. In a way, I began to wonder if that might be a healthy thing.
When I am on campus here, using the campus recreation facilities available to me as an alum, I'm often surprised to hear conversations revealing that students don't work, don't live at home during the summer, call home for money frequently, and yet have more than enough "play-time" money for partying, clothes, spring-break trips, etc. Not all of them live like this, of course, but probably two thirds of them do. I really like being around these kids; I'm not writing them off as obnoxiously spoiled. And we do get a very academically talented population here, as this is our flagship state school, highly ranked in several disciplines. However, I think some of them are receiving less preparation for their future than they need. I know from what I overhear that many of them say they have never held a part-time job!
That's a shame. I probably learned as much of use to me as an adult from my part-time jobs as I did from my college classes themselves. Let see....
babysitting: I started doing this when I was twelve, and made a lot of money this way all the way through high school. Managing small children, seeing how different families operated, realizing the safety of my charges required my attention all the time I was with them, was great preparation for parenthood.
cleaning for a furniture store, and later for an office building: I learned that cleaning is never really done. Dirt happens. Someone has to deal with. Just do it.
on the production line of a plastics factory: We made those little disposable gloves that food workers use that look like baggies with fingers. For eight hours a day. Five days a week. I was the only girl on the line who had gotten a high school diploma, and the only one who did not have a child, though I was the oldest at only 20, earning me, for some reason, the nick name "rich b-----". Never, never, never want to work someplace like that again. But I did learn that you can do anything for three months if you have to!
university band library: I was hired for four hours a day, five days a week. The problem was, there was really only about 30 minutes of work per day. I learned I did not feel good about being paid to read novels by the hour, especially when I knew it was the tax payers of Illinois that were really paying me. I also learned that there is a ridiculous amount of waste in government institutions, and we need to proactively go after that waste.
two different retail jobs, one in a music store, and one in an outlet clothing store: I liked the music one. I learned to be patient with people working a cash register, having been that person myself. I didn't like the clothing one. When some one came to the counter with an arm-load of clothes, I wanted to say "Do you really need all that? Are you sure you don't have a closet full of clothes at home already?" So, I guess I learned that I don't have the "sales" gene!
research flunky for an agronomist at a seed corn company: I really liked this one. First, it was outside, which I loved. And the guy I worked with realized that I enjoyed having him explain why we were counting how many seeds had germinated per row, how many ears per stalk, which hybrids suffered lodging problems after a storm, etc. I learned so much there. It was the summer that I was getting married in August, which meant my tan made my little bit of Cherokee ancestry pretty obvious in our wedding photos, but I still think about what I learned as I drive around Central Illinois and look at crops out my car window.
I've done a few other things, since, even as a mom and home maker, I always worked part-time at something: daycare provider, foster parent, recess and lunchroom supervisor, voice teacher, crossing guard, and church choir director. They are always adding to my life experiences, and helping me to see things through other people's eyes. This is why I think it might actually be good for our college students to have less money available to them. If it makes them pick up a job to earn at least their spending money, I think it will be a good thing in the long run.
Did you have any part-time jobs you liked, or hated? What did you learn from them?