College students choose between on-campus and off-campus jobs


Graphic by Hayden Bailey

Riley McDonald, [email protected], Contributor

Universities in the UNC school system offer job opportunities on campus, but according to some, these jobs often leave students without enough money and feeling like they are wasting their time. 

“My university job often left me feeling bored and like I was not doing anything productive with my time. I felt like I could be getting more out of a job somewhere else that might teach me life skills or help me find a place to start my career for the amount of time I was giving up to the job,” said Sofia Padovano, a 19-year-old student at UNC Chapel Hill. 

According to a 2020 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, a majority of full-time undergraduate students at four-year universities work between 20-34 hours per week. Universities work with their student employees to work around their schedules and ensure students are given a work schedule that will not interfere with their classes. 

Actually, taking class schedules into consideration is one of the benefits of working on-campus. When a supervisor is hiring a student, they already know they’ll need to take the student’s course schedule into consideration when building out their schedule. We also develop a new work schedule during finals since that schedule is typically fairly different from the semester-long schedule,” said Assistant Director of Experiential Learning at the UNC Asheville Career Center, Cate Marshall. 

Padovano, who worked on and off campus, said her number one wish while she was working her job on-campus was for her managers to allow staff to work on things like homework during downtime at the job to help with time management when she got off work. 

“I worked in a small office on campus so my job was not typical of what you would have working in a cafeteria or bigger campus job. When there were moments of downtime we were expected to sit around and wait for new work to show up. It honestly just felt really counterproductive and like we all could have been using our time elsewhere. Sometimes I would rather work tricky hours than feel like I’m wasting my own time,” Padovano said. 

According to career centers in the UNC school system, each school offers a career fair where students have the opportunity to discover internships, network with people in fields of interest and get an idea of the job opportunities they have through their university, but not every student is aware of the job opportunities on-campus. 

The benefits of student employment and working on campus haven’t been largely advertised in the past, so we’re developing ideas for how to help students understand the value that comes in working on campus. There are positions across every department that range from supporting a chemistry lab to maintaining the on-campus gardens to supporting the administrative side of departments that students can apply for,” Marshall said. 

Just Economics of Western North Carolina, an organization based in Asheville that works toward a just and sustainable economy for all of Western North Carolina, updated their living wage amount for Buncombe County to be $17.70 an hour. Students who are living off-campus will need to be making that much in order to pay their rent, but on-campus jobs only pay between $9-$11 an hour unless students have certifications that would warrant higher pay. 

Nearly every supervisor I’ve talked to while learning more about UNCA’s on-campus student employment has brought up pay as something they know students are considering when looking at on-campus opportunities and something supervisors want to change. I think it’s important to keep in mind that budgets across campus fluctuate every year, and so often there’s no option to increase that hourly wage,” Marshall said. 

UNCA alumna, Madison Jackson worked in the mail center at the Highsmith Student Union when she was a student. 

“Working on campus in college was great for me because it gave me time to be social while still having respect for my class schedule, but I don’t think I would recommend it to students who are paying their own bills. We were making pocket change when I worked there, and things are much more expensive now.” 

According to officials at Orange County Living Wage, a volunteer-driven organization working to promote a living wage in Orange County, North Carolina, the living wage for Orange County has been raised to $16.60 an hour. According to the officials at the Carolina Union, students who work on campus at UNC Chapel Hill generally make between $8.80-$10.50 an hour. 

“I’m lucky enough that my parents are willing to help me pay for things like rent and groceries, but I really do not know what I would do if I had to pay those bills on my own. It feels almost impossible to find a job that pays enough to cover everything these days,” Padovano said.