Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children. - George Bernard Shaw
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

There are at least three ways that students get through college from a financial perspective. (1) They pay, (2) their parents pay, (3) they qualify for a scholarship (often combined with either (1) or (2)).

Ignoring scholarships, do you think that, on average, students who pay their own way are at an advantage (or disadvantage) or get a better (or worse) education or appreciate (or not...) their education more than those students who have college tuition paid for them by their parents? Why?

Λrchetype

A:

Dear Quintessence, 

Okay, so I'm on scholarship right now, but if I ever come to a point where I no longer qualify, my parents won't be able to pay for me and I'll have to do it myself. So I consider scholarships as paying for myself, because I'm still working to earn money, just in a different way. I have to work 20hrs a week to pay for a place to live, and work full time (and more) as a really good student to be able to keep my grades up to pay for school. 

So in my experience, the idea of having to support my education has made me value it a lot more. I prioritize my studies and focus more on the material than I would otherwise because I know I have to learn it well to ace my exams. My college degree is important to me. I have to think it's important, or I wouldn't keep trying so hard. 

Really it comes down to the individual student. You can have students whose parents are paying for them who are really grateful for the help and they really appreciate their opportunity to go to college and work really hard and take their education really seriously. But there will also be some who don't care. They'll miss class and spend time having fun instead of studying, they don't try as hard, etc. 

Then there are some kids who have to pay their way through school because it really matters to them, and there are some who, even though it's out of their own pocket, could care less about making an effort. C's get degrees right? 

At BYU I think people fall more into the former category in both instances. It seems like most students here are really engaged in their studies regardless of who's paying for it. 

Cheers, 

Guesthouse

A:

Dear Archetype,

I think there are pros and cons of each. I think with the right mindset many tough circumstances can be turned into positives. However, working while in school is a big strain on students and can prevent them from taking full advantage of their opportunities. Let's take a deeper look:

Students who pay their own way:

Pros: When students pay their own way it forces them to work. Ultimately, one of the main purposes of colleges is to prepare people for the work force and actually working does a good job of doing that. Living on your own also forces people to learn how to budget. Learning how to live within one's means is one of the most valuable life lessons and can have a huge life time pay off. The feeling of being independent is rewarding. Little Caesars Pizza isn't a gourmet meal, but it tastes better when you earned that money yourself and you can treat yourself because you've earned it. Also, it's really nice paying your own way so you don't feel indebted to or controlled by your parents. I have several friends who were told by their parents that they couldn't major in XYZ because if they did their parents would cut them off financially. Avoiding that whole situation is a positive.

Cons: Working takes a lot of time. It's possible to land a secretary job that allows you to do homework at work, but for the most part time spent at work is time spent away from homework. This makes classes difficult, not to mention social life and other responsibilities. Furthermore, if students are paying their own way they most likely don't have a lot of savings and medical issues or other emergencies could turn into a full blown crisis. Paying your own way takes longer to graduate, which in the long run hurts life time earnings.

Students whose parents pay:

Pros: Students that don't have to pay their own way can focus more on school. If they do desire to work they can be more choosy and pick jobs that are more rewarding or relate more to their coursework. They have more time to spend on opportunities like extra classes, or clubs, or teams, or unpaid research. All those things help prepare students for careers and provide a richer more fulfilling educational experience. If your parents pay for school you are less likely to go into debt or run into a financial emergency because you have a safety net. Also, if your parents are paying for school you could probably afford Lucky Charms instead of eating bowls of Marshmallow Mateys that taste like poverty.

Cons: I think that students that don't pay their own way are more likely to be entitled. They also might have less of a sense of urgency which could cause them to graduate slower. These students might take classes less seriously which would hurt their educational experience and grad school prospects. Also, not having to work might keep people from learning valuable life lessons like hard work or budgeting.

Conclusion:

There's value in paying for yourself, but paying for school is extremely hard and America has a student debt epidemic. Honestly I don't know how people pay their own way. Even with scholarships I've had to work and sell plasma to be where I wanted to be. If I didn't have scholarships and grants I would have never gotten to participate in all of the cool things I've done at college. I'd probably be 2 years behind where I am now in school and selling plasma and working instead of doing research and cool projects.

So mad props to all the people that pay for themselves! You are amazing individuals. I think you would rather that someone else pay for you, but y'all are like super heroes and I respect you so much!

Peace,

Tipperary

A:

Dear Λrchetype,

I wanted to focus on the advantages or disadvantages that come through paying for college yourself. So I turned to the experts.

First off, "68% of all college students work for pay during the academic year, and one-third of these students work more than 20 hours per week" (5). Students whose education is paid for by their parents or scholarships may still work (*raises hand*), but I think it's a reasonable assumption that if you're working over 20 hours per work, it's more likely you're paying your way through college. (This may or may not apply to BYU, considering how cheap our tuition is compared to most universities.)

First experts: Students who work longer tend to have lower grades (there is a negative correlation between hours worked and self-reported grades) (1).

Second experts: Um, excuse you. Obviously you ran the numbers wrong. We cannot prove a relationship between hours worked and grades (there isn't a significant relationship) (2).

Third experts *eating glue*: Guys, guys, listen to me...students who work longer have higher grades (their explanation was that working students tended to be more motivated and organized) (3).

Fourth experts: Okay, e'eryone else is obvi confused because the relationship isn't linear. That is, students who worked up to a certain point (such as 15 hours per week) had higher grades, but students who worked longer than that had lower grades. Come on people, this is so obvious, and even more obvious is that working 40 hours a week is not going to improve your grades *stares at third experts* (4).

Fifth experts: Fourth experts, you're on to something! But we've found that, when students work more than 20 hours each week, their grades suffer. However, when students work on campus 20 hours or less, their grades increase. But working on campus is the important part (5).

Sixth experts: Y'all totally forgot an important aspect: college experiences. Outside activities are super important to include. We found no relationship between grades and hours spent working, but we did find a relationship between hours working and engagement in educationally purposeful activities. Student engagement is crucial (6).

Seventh experts, showing up out of nowhere: Hey guys, parental aid decreases students' GPA, but it also increases their chances of graduating! (7)

My conclusion after reading all this: working less than 20 hours and on campus is likely to have no impact or a positive impact on grades. Working more than 20 hours, though, will hurt your grades. As students who cover the full tuition cost must often work more than 20 hours, their grades are most likely to suffer. Thus, students who pay their way through college are at a disadvantage. However, the last expert showed that parental involvement can decrease GPA (which makes sense, because they're not working hard for it and likely aren't taking it as seriously), so those students are also at a disadvantage.

So umm...scholarships all the way?

-guppy of doom


1. Horn & Malizio, 1998; King & Bannon, 2002; National Center for Education Statistics, 1994; Cox & Neidert, 2007; Klum & Cramer, 2006.

2. Bella & Huba, 1982; Canabal, 1988; Dallam & Hoyt, 1981; Ehrenberg & Sherman, 1986; Furr & Elling, 2000; Volkwein, Schmonsky, & Im, 1989; Weaver, 2013.

3. Hammes & Haller, 1983.

4. Hay & Lindsay, 1969; Dundes & Marx, 2006; Orszag, Orszag, & Whitmore, 2001.

5. Pike, Kuh, & Massa-McKinley, 2008; Austin, 1993; Kuh, Kinzie, Cruce, Shoup, & Gonyea, 2007; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991, 2005.

6. Riggert et al., 2006; Canabal, 1989; Furr & Elling, 2000; Volkwein, Schmonsky, & Im, 1989; Astin, 1993; Horn & Malizio, 1998; Klum & Cramer, 2006; Kuh et al., 2007; Kuh et al., 2007

7. Hamilton, 2013.

*If you want to find specific articles, google the name and date listed and something like "college work grades."