Students who are also workers faced challenges even before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from the University of California, Los Angeles, Labor Center.
The report, done in partnership with the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute, collected 236 surveys from students at public colleges and universities in Los Angeles County in April and May. More than half of undergraduate students throughout the county work, many in low-wage sectors like retail. The report found that more than half of working learners had been laid off, terminated or furloughed, and more than one-quarter experienced housing changes due to the pandemic.
These challenges are impediments for a student population that, the report found, overwhelming values getting an education. Ninety-one percent of respondents said they think it's important to finish their current degree program, and more than half wish to pursue a graduate degree.
But students are often penalized for having to work, according to the report. Nearly 70 percent missed things like classes, assignments, study groups or team meetings because of work. Another 71 percent had missed at least one activity such as meeting with a professor, attending a campus program or receiving tutorial support because of work. This difficult balance led to 63 percent of respondents saying they experience high levels of stress, and 40 percent said they have thought about taking a break from college.
The report recommends colleges in the area take several steps to help working students, including providing support and accommodations while acknowledging the commitments that working and learning require, supporting paid internships, making college affordable for all, and addressing food insecurity.