A Case Study of Undergraduate Student Employment at a Private University: Exploring the Effects of Social Class and Institutional Context
Satterlee, Richard Thomas
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This research examined if the trend which finds greater numbers of undergraduate college students working, and in some cases for many hours each week, has differing outcomes for students from different social class backgrounds. Employing a Bourdieuian theoretical framework the study examined if college students' choices about work (e.g., whether or not to work; whether to work on-campus vs. off-campus; and how many hours to work per week) are shaped by their social class and the institutional context of the college they attend. The study also investigated if the policies, practices and characteristics of one private university affected students' work, academic and co-curricular choices. The research investigated these questions through employing a cross-case study analysis that focused on the work experience of students at a private, four-year Catholic university in the northeast. The case study drew on multiple data sources, including institutional level data collected from students' participation in national surveys, interviews with students, and interviews with college administrators and student employers. Findings from the research indicate that students from working class backgrounds were more likely to work more hours per week during the academic year than their middle- and upper-class peers who were employed. Working class students also were more likely to hold more than one job during the academic year and to combine on-campus and off-campus employment than their middle- and upper-class peers. Despite this, working-class students often found a sense of belonging and fit through their jobs. The study also found that working class students were far less likely to participate in study abroad than their middle- and upper-class peers. Working class students frequently cited a concern for the continuity of their employment as a deterrent to study abroad. Working class students were somewhat less likely to participate in co-curricular programs than their middle- and upper-class peers. Nonetheless, the study found that working class students often pursued campus jobs that provided opportunities for leadership development, community service or interaction with faculty.