Financial Challenges Keeping College Students from Graduating

October 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Students at community colleges all over the state gathered to talk about the challenges in earning a college education. A recent study shows students who work are struggling to graduate on time.Many students at Fresno City College are working to pay their way through school, we caught Up James Smith on his way to class-- he says later he'll work the graveyard shift at Foster Farms.

Smith said, "Most days I get three hours of sleep."

He admits a full time job is taking a toll on his studies.

"When you work that deprives you of sleep you have to study you have book reports to write," said Smith.

A survey conducted by the California student public interest research group says working long hours hurts student education.

The students surveyed work an average of 23 hours a week, study an average of 25 hours per week, and less than one quarter say they successfully balance work and studies.

According to the study only 24 percent of community college students earn an associate's degree or transfer to a four year institution within six years. One problem noted is misunderstanding financial aid or not applying at all.

Frank Ramon Director of Financial Aid at FCC says last year more than 26 thousand students applied for financial aid-- this year he expects a 20 percent increase. He says the funds are available, and it helps to take a full course load.

Ramon said, "If you are enrolled in one class you only qualify for so much if you are enrolled in 12 or more units you will qualify for the maximum."

Students may be able to work fewer hours by taking advantage of federal work study, student loans, and scholarships.

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