Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Nicole Oliveira '20 working in the kitchen at Temple of Zeus, one of her multiple jobs on campus.

May 7, 2019

At Up to 40 Hours a Week, Student Jobs Often Come at Cost of Grades, Social Life

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Correction appended. 

Walter Salas ’19 showed up in a full suit with his name-tag for a prelim this spring. He had just come from his job at the Statler Hotel and did not have time to change.

Salas took the prelim, and then returned to the Statler to close the hotel’s restaurant for the evening. He said he ran out of time on the exam and received a lower score on it than he would have liked.

“I actually did know the information,” he said. “I just didn’t manage the time well because I had just come from work.” Salas, who serves as student director of food and beverage for the Statler Hotel, works 40 hours a week.

According to the Financial Aid office, 2,604 Cornell students are participating in work-study jobs in 2019. 2,528 students held work-study jobs in 2018 and 2,293 students in 2017.

According to Cornell’s Student Employment website, most financial aid packages require students to earn money through on-campus jobs, which Cornell and the Federal Work Study Program jointly pay for. The website states that students work about nine hours weekly on average.

However, some students work far more than nine hours for financial or other reasons, and some even balance multiple jobs.

Many students work long hours because they need to earn money. Salas applied to work at the Statler on his third day at Cornell in order to “support [himself] financially.” He decided to live off-campus because living on-campus was too expensive.

“I needed to meet rent,” he said. “I needed to pay bills. That’s why I started working. It was a well-paying job.”

He started out as a server at Taverna Banfi, became a supervisor during his junior year, and was promoted to a student director at the beginning of this semester. He said he is currently financially independent from his parents and even sometimes has to “help them out” if they cannot meet their rent.

Tatiana Suero ’19, a server at Taverna Banfi, also works out of necessity. She is the oldest of five siblings in her family. Suero pays for school, her rent, her food and other expenses. She said she also pays the phone bill for her mom, her sisters and herself.

“I don’t want to burden my parents more and have them pay for things that I need, if I can just do it myself,” she said.

However, working for such long periods of time sometimes comes with negatives side effects. Sometimes, it affects their academic performance; other times, it deprives them of the free time to attend social and extracurricular events.

Suero said she was placed on academic probation her freshman year due to her grades dropping because of how much she was working.

“I had never made as much money as I was making, and I needed to pay off bills, so I worked 40 hours a week pretty much,” she said, “and then my school work just went downhill. So the next semester I took off a lot of work and I just did school and my GPA went up like crazy.”

Suero and Salas said that some professors are accommodating of the fact that they work. One of Salas’ professors even worked full-time in college himself. Given the shared experiences, he has given his students extensions and been “a little bit more lenient,” Salas said. However, not all professors are not so understanding.

Salas said that in one recent lab class, the professor said an assignment was due the next day. The professor had assigned it ahead of time, but it was not possible to complete the assignment without the lab experiments from that day. Salas, who went back to work right after that class till midnight, did not have time to complete that assignment on time.

“[A lot of professors] just expect you to be here solely to study, and they don’t understand that you have bills to pay,” he said.

Last semester, Nicole Oliveira ’20, an employee at the Temple of Zeus and the school and families intern at the Johnson Museum of Art, worked three jobs and took 18 academic credits. One of her jobs, at the photo lab in Tjaden Hall, had 9 p.m. to midnight shifts.

“I would say I definitely didn’t get that much sleep that semester, and spent a lot of nights in the like Physical Sciences Building writing papers until like 5 in the morning,” she said. “But I mean, it got done.”

School work isn’t the only thing affected by the necessity to work. Many students lose out on social or extracurricular opportunities due to the demands of their jobs.

Clara Ricketts ’20 works at Uris and Olin Libraries and has a paid research position with a professor. At the same time, she is also a member of Pi Lambda Sigma — an organization for students interested in careers in politics or government — but hasn’t been able to attend a general body meeting this semester as it always took place during her shift at Uris.

Clara Ricketts '20 sitting on the Arts Quad.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Clara Ricketts ’20 sits on the Arts Quad studying on her day off.

Kayla Aulenbach ’19, a residential advisor at 112 Edgemoor and a service center assistant at Cascadilla, said she has missed out on social events due to work. She sometimes cannot eat dinner with friends because of work. However, Aulenbach noted that this hasn’t been “terrible.”

Aulenbach also mentioned that as an RA, working with transfer students has been fulfilling, as she herself is a transfer. She explained that RAs have “a lot” of potential to impact the residential experience at Cornell.

“Sometimes residents just need somebody to talk to or need somebody to look up to, and I really enjoyed being that person,” she said.

Correction: A previous version of this article said that Oliveira worked in Gates Hall. In fact, Oliveira worked in Tjaden Hall.