Balancing the books and the job

There was a good feeling building up in Ella Myers’ mind as she approached her graduation.

That feeling is in part, thanks to the bachelor’s degree she’ll soon receive, but also because   she’s graduating debt-free. This is drawing both surprise and praise from her family.

Myers financed her university education by working part-time jobs while in school.

She and her mom even have a little bit left over.

“Now we can put it towards vacation,” she said.

Myers is the 21-year-old daughter of a single mother from Sudbury, Ontario. She completed her journalism degree at Carleton University in Ottawa this year.

Jobs and books

Myers is one of many young Canadians who combine school and work. Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey from 1998, in which the agency exclusively surveyed the trend of part-time employment among post-secondary students, working part time jobs was not necessarily a risky move for both male and female post-secondary students.

“Somewhat surprisingly, adding a job to post-secondary studies does not seem to affect perceptions of time pressure or quality of life for either sex,” wrote Sandra Franke, an analyst with the Health Statistics Division at Statistics Canada, in a 2003 paper based on the General Social Survey findings.

As long as they work less than 20 hours a week, the analyst said, students were not likely to feel severely time-crunched, rushed or stressed because of their busier schedule. It’s perhaps because “the overwhelming majority of young women and men reported that school, rather than work, was their primary source of stress.”

The research said students with jobs reported signs of a good quality of life such as higher self-esteem, more happiness and greater life satisfaction than did those without paid work.

Myers agrees.

“When you have to take a cab home, you don’t have to worry about it. I didn’t have to worry about the cost because I work,” she says.

Work keeps down debts

She works 15 hours every week, earning roughly $11 per hour. The experience helps her live a less boring school life since she normally likes having a job and it improves her time management ability. She tries to do school-work as early as possible so she can run to her jobs, most of them involve bread baking and fast food service.

Myers works between 10-15 hours a week during school and keeps a full time job in the summer. Her mother has always worried about her daughter working at a job during school. She wanted her to focus on her studies. But Myer’s ability to juggle part-time work and her courses has paid off.

For most post-secondary students in Canada, graduation with debt has become part of their school experience. They owe $20,000 upon graduation for those from universities and $13,000 from college on average according to different surveys from Statistics Canada.