Why aren't there more on-campus jobs?
US universities are facing barriers in trying to advance on-campus employment opportunities for students. Source: Shutterstock

An on-campus job is a financial lifeline for many students. Those from lower-income families or international students from weaker currencies can earn extra cash to survive. Even kids of the most wealthy Americans do odd jobs on-campus to make their expenses stretch.

Such positions are popular and it isn’t hard to figure out why. With generally flexible hours, minimal to no commute and the promise of professional experience, it ticks all the boxes that make it highly likable among students.

These roles include meaningful learning and engagement opportunities, but a new report has found that US universities are facing several obstacles that prevent this from happening.

These include funding constraints, the lack of a centralised area to post job openings anda lack of resources and tools to support supervisors, according to NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education, which surveyed student affairs professionals and other employees at 244 institutions of all sorts – two-year and four-year, public and private.

Limited funding is the top barrier, with 77 percent of respondents at public colleges and 62 percent at privates reporting this to be a problematic issue. This is followed by a lack of manpower (“Time and capacity of full-time staff”) and a lack of standardization and consistency of practices across campus.

The top priority when it comes to investing in student employment in the next three to five years will be increasing the hourly wage of student workers. This is followed by using technology to streamline processes, increase the number of student employee positions, and providing students workers and supervisors with awards or recognition.

Speaking to Inside Higher Ed, Amelia Parnell, NASPA’s Vice President for Research and Policy and one of the report’s coauthors, said: “I think we do it owe it to them to make it as fruitful as possible.

“With other jobs, it’s much more transactional – you do the job, you get paid. College is much more than that – with this particular work environment, it should be a living and learning community.”

External factors that further restrict on-campus student employment programmes are local minimum wage changes, a competitive off-campus job market and declining resource allocations. Parnell explained that for more financially-desperate students, off-campus jobs can be more attractive as they can be more lucrative, despite the need to commute and other drawbacks that stem from it.

Students can also benefit from a central location where on-campus jobs are posted. “This may help institutions shift away from word-of-mouth hiring that can unfairly advantage well-connected students over equally qualifed peers who may not know such opportunities exist,” the report notes.

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