Supporting student workers should be a no-brainer

Emily Caldwell

A 2015 study published by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that over the past 25 years, more than 70% of college students have worked at least one job while enrolled in classes. A large population of UT students know what it’s like to devote their valuable time and energy to something other than school while in college. Many don’t have a choice. 

However, according to UT spokesperson J.B. Bird, UT does not offer resources or services to aid or advise undergraduate students who work part-time or full-time jobs while enrolled in classes. UT has several websites and resources devoted to helping and guiding students who are employees of the University, but these services only apply to University student employees.  

While there are several possible solutions to this problem, UT should devote a section of its administrative student services — either within the Office of the Dean of Students or the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs — to providing information, guidance and advice to working undergraduate students. 

All students have access to the resources provided by their prospective academic advisers and departments, as well as academic support centers such as the Sanger Learning Center and the Vick Center. But those vary from college to college and are scattered all over campus. There are also several job recruitment services students can use, such as Hire a Longhorn and Texas Recruitment + Interview Services, but what about the students who already have a job? 

Biochemistry junior Jonathan Pavia would know — he currently has three. When Pavia started his freshman year at UT, he was working with the City of Austin six to eight hours a week. He said one of the biggest things he struggled with was learning how to balance his work schedule with his school schedule, which involved more than homework. 

“I think the most difficult thing was finding the time to go to meetings for my job (and) extra things for the job,” Pavia said. “My extracurricular activities had to go on the back burner freshman and sophomore year because I needed the money more than I needed to be involved in things.” 

Both experienced student workers such as Pavia and students working a job for the first time could benefit from a centralized service devoted to aiding and advising undergraduate students who work part-time or full-time jobs while enrolled in classes. For a model, the Office of the Dean of Students need not look further than one of the most helpful student services it offers: Legal Services for Students.  

“Some of the reasons why we offer these free attorney services to our students is because any engagement that (students are) having with the legal system or with legal issues are most likely going to be their first experiences with the legal system and with legal issues,” said Sara Kennedy, manager of strategic and executive communications for the Office of the Dean of Students. “For many students, that is pretty daunting.”

This same reasoning could be applied in favor of creating a similar service for working undergraduates. This new division of services could be modeled after Legal Services for Students. Instead of providing legal help, this division would provide advice, guidance and information to students who work part-time, or even full-time jobs while enrolled in classes at UT. 

This guidance could include everything from instructions on how to fill out your W-2 form to advice on how to deal with a disagreement with a boss. Students could make appointments with counselors, like they can in Legal Services, on job-related topics. Most importantly, students could learn how to best balance work with school. 

When asked about the possibility of a division like this becoming a reality within the Office of the Dean of Students, Kennedy said she couldn’t speculate, but emphasized the effort her office makes to explore new ways to support students.

To ensure that what is often one of its most vulnerable populations on campus receives the help it deserves, UT should start directly supporting students who work jobs — not just those who work for UT. 

Caldwell is a Latin American studies and journalism junior from College Station, Texas.