The pros and cons of work/study in college

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Q. My son was offered work/study money for college. I’m torn. We need the funds, but I also want to make sure he can concentrate on his studies. How can we decide to accept it or not?
— Mom

A. Work/study arrangements can be financially valuable, and they can also provide a student with skills that will help them when they get into the real world.

But should your son take it?

It’s a complicated question, especially because we don’t know the maturity of your son and if he has good time management skills.

The adjustment to the freedom of college can be daunting to some, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

“If he has a more time-consuming major such as engineering or the sciences that have lab time, it could be difficult as he is making the adjustment to college,” she said.

D’Agostini said generally, the employment is on campus, so there would not be travel involved. It’s usually a part-time job with 20 hours or less per week.

The jobs are usually scheduled around the academic schedule of the student, and granted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Work/study programs can have many potential benefits.

“It allows your son to contribute to his college experience, which often can lead to better performance since he has some `skin in the game,’” she said. “If this defrays some student loans that he would eventually have to repay, this may relieve him of a higher payment upon graduation which he will be grateful for.”

Because work/study programs are on campus, it gives him added opportunity to meet and know more of the college staff, even potentially giving him mentoring opportunities, D’Agostini said.

It could also give him some networking opportunities, all while building a solid resume that could distinguish him when he enters the job market upon graduation, she said.

D’Agostini said even though he will be working and earning money, this should not compete with federal financial aid because the federal government does not count this as income.

“These work/study programs can create a healthy work/life balance for a student, while establishing a resume for better employment out of college,” she said. “If you are unsure of his ability to handle all the new challenges of college, you can elect to start in the sophomore year.”

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NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.