Weigh Payoff of Summer School, Summer Job

May 15, 2017 21:47 |

Summer college classes could help you to graduate sooner, while a job could boost to your bank balance

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Deborah Ziff, in an article published in US News & World Report, discusses the pros & cons of summer work vs. summer classes. Following the SAFE Steps process helps families maximize their options. Enter Deborah:

When Sophie Giroux, a sophomore at DePaul University in Chicago, considered her summer plans, the prospect of postgraduation student debt loomed large.

So she decided to return home for the summer to live with her parents rent-free and, in addition to a part-time internship, work up to 30 hours a week at a sales job she had already secured.

Because she doesn’t work during the school year, earning money during the summer is crucial for her to save for school-year living expenses – and she tries to tuck any extra money away for paying off loans when she graduates.

“For most college students, debt is inevitable, and it’s really kind of always there in the back of your mind,” she says. “Over the summer is my time to save up for anything I need during the year and for paying off future loans.”

For college students, summer plans are important for academic and career aspirations – but they can also play a role in the college financial picture. Consider these trade-offs when deciding whether to focus on work, school or a combination over the summer.

• Summer classes: Giroux is on track for a four-year graduation, even without summer classes, with the potential to finish a semester early. But if summer school can help with an on-time or even early graduation, experts say it may be well worthwhile.

“Taking courses during summer session helps students progress to degree faster and that can result in substantial cost savings,” says Matt Traxler, associate vice provost for academic planning for undergraduate education at University of California—Davis.

Each additional year of college could mean an ever-mounting pile of debt as tuition, fees and living expenses begin to accrue

“The longer you’re in, you’ve got more principal,” says Deborah Agee, director of financial aid and scholarships at UC—Davis. “Also, if you’re a student that’s getting an unsubsidized loan, the interest continues to accrue the whole time you’re in school.”

There’s also the “opportunity cost” of not earning that postcollege salary because you’re still in school, Agee added.

• Summer job: On the other hand, a summer job or paid summer internship can be an important place to gain crucial work experience and earn money for college costs. Like Giroux, students can also start setting aside summer job money toward loan repayments.

Tami Campbell, owner of Michigan-based Level Up Career Services, says she’s worked with computer science and engineering students who earn $20 an hour or more for summer internships.

“At that rate, they’re earning a decent paycheck, and it could definitely go toward paying some of that debt or paying the next bill that comes up so they don’t take on more debt,” she says.

She says that employers want to hire college graduates who already have real-world work experience.

“If students don’t have this by the time they graduate, they don’t have very good future prospects for paying back that debt,” she says.

If it’s a possibility, living at home for the summer while working can also cut down on expenses.

However, bear in mind that student earnings and savings can affect financial aid eligibility, since student income and assets are considered more “available” to help with a student’s college costs than parent assets, Agee says. But that doesn’t mean students should avoid summer work, she says, adding that not all aid is need-based.

“I would never discourage students from taking summer jobs in fear of a negative impact on their financial aid package,” Agee says. “There are many rewards to summer work that reap rewards for years to come.”

• Take classes and work: Taking summer classes and working doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. Students often take one or two classes over the summer, allowing them to work at the same time.

Campus jobs and even federal work-study funds are available over the summer, whether a student is enrolled in summer school or not, Agee says.

Online courses or classes at community colleges are also options for saving money, allowing students to live at home and work while taking a class over the summer.

Depending on the school, summer credits may or may not be discounted, but there may be financial aid available in the form of grants or scholarships – money that doesn’t need to be paid back – specifically for the summer term. For instance, UC—Davis offers a need-based grant for summer students.

“In the last couple of years, the university has started making a really significant commitment to our summer grant program,” Agee says. “Now we’re committing that every eligible student will receive institutional aid, so that has been fantastic for our students.”