Folk music flows from the pavilion on Old Orchard as market vendors and Webster Groves…
Webster students overworked
Nell Fogg, a sophomore anthropology major, wakes up every morning wondering if she’ll be able to pay this semester’s tuition. With no financial support from her parents, she works 40 hours a week and has a full course load at Webster University.
Fogg is not alone. The 2009 Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), a freshman survey that is relative to their graduating class, indicates that Webster students work more than students at other peer institutions. Eighteen percent of Webster’s student body does not rely on any family resources to pay for tuition, compared to similar universities.
As a full-time student who supports herself, Fogg said it’s a strain to have these kinds of responsibilities.
“I have this struggling mentality that I’ve got to fight to do this,” Fogg said. “It’s really rough, but I’m trying not to let this get the best of me.”
John Buck, associate dean of students, said the vast majority of Webster students receive little financial contribution from family. He said this results in students working more, as well as experiencing more stress compared to peer schools like Millikin University in Decatur, Ill.
Working Webster vs. Millikin
Millikin is a small private university in which Webster is cross-referenced in regard to certain programs, like the two schools’ theater departments, Buck said. However, Webster has a significantly higher working student population than Millikin. Forty-six percent of Webster freshman work one to 10 hours off campus, compared to the four percent of Milliken’s first year students.
Fifty-five percent of Webster students reported working one to 10 hours on campus. Only 13 percent of Millikin’s students work on campus.
Though Webster students work more, they continue to see their education as a top priority, Buck said.
“Students see a lot of members of their family work really hard to get where they are and they see a whole different potential outcome of their lives if they have a degree and what the possibilities are that come with that,” Buck said.
Desire to Achieve
Though Fogg deals with financial woes, she finds the worth in striving for a degree.
“My goal is to travel to learn about other cultures,” Fogg said. “If I can get through this semester, I can get though anything. This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.”
According to the CIRP survey, Webster students’ drive to the top 10 percent is 38 percent higher than peer schools.
Patrick Stack, director of counseling at Webster, said this relates to the university instilling a sense of community with its students.
“There’s a higher probability that they stay and get involved,” Stack said.
Many of the students Buck knows work 12 to 20 hours a week. However, being involved with campus activities can add more responsibilities to already heavy work–loads.
“How many roles does somebody get to have in terms of them being able to balance it all?” Buck said. “I see a lot of students whose involvement is broad and they kind of go in a little bit idealistically thinking they can balance all these things.”
Being a full time student, working full time and being involved on campus can lead to some habits in hopes to alleviate stress.
The CIRP survey shows Webster has a 24 percent higher smoking rate than that of other schools, along with a higher rate of drinking wine or hard liquor.
Taylor Ringenberg, junior photography major, was working at Starbucks 35 to 40 hours a week, taking 18 credit hours, shooting for the school’s photography club and participating in the demonstrations of Occupy St. Louis.
She recently quit her job to focus on school, but her packed schedule has left her with a habitual daily routine.
“I wake up and go straight to my coffee maker to get me through the day,” Ringenberg said. “When I was working, I had my morning schedule and I left 15 minutes before work to have time for a smoke break and preparation.”
Overworked? Relief found at Webster
Buck said Webster should not be just another weight added to overladen working students, but a source of relief. He said they can seek help on campus.
“When they take that courageous step saying ‘I need help with this,’ it always pays off,” Buck said. “That’s why we’re here. I can’t think of a doorway where people wouldn’t say they can help.”
He said the entire Student Affairs staff is ready to help any student, and students can take advantage of professional counseling available at Webster. Buck said with a school like Webster, it would be a waste for students to slip through the cracks without help when there are other students like them they can work shoulder to shoulder with.
“I absolutely don’t want them to think they are alone,” Buck said.