The bottom floor of the old law school is flowing with people. Chattering students rush out the building as Terrye Davis walks in the swinging doors. Music plays over the loudspeakers as she waits patiently on the elevator.
The elevator dings: one, two, three as she ascends talking joyfully about future plans and finals week. The third floor is a stark contrast to the first. The chatting of students is replaced with quiet whispers, but she continues to joke as she walks through the glass door to her desk. The inside of the room is as quiet as the hall, filled only with the sound of Davis exchanging pleasantries with her coworkers. She is comfortable here.
Davis takes a seat at her desk and opens a program on the computer, still smiling. It’s not what you might expect from a person who works part-time throughout her college career, but she loves her job.
The students rushing to their next class and the joyful Davis all have one thing in common: their college tuition has increased.
According to data released by the College Board in 2014, tuition for four-year universities in Mississippi has increased 25 percent in the last five years alone. With tuition consistently going up, students are finding new ways to finance their academic careers.
Davis, like many other undergraduates in the United States, maintains a part-time job throughout her college career.
According to a report by the United States Census Bureau News in 2013, 52 percent of college students in the United States work part-time, and 20 percent of students maintain full-time jobs while enrolled in a university. By these statistics, over 70 percent of undergraduates hold a job while they are in college.
The percentage of college-aged workers varies from state to state. The map below from the United States Census Bureau shows Mississippi’s student workers remain between 15.0 and 19.9 percent, consistent with the national average of 19.6 percent.
While the amount of student workers increases, universities have developed new programs for job opportunities. On the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus alone, students can participate in a federal work-study program or the job location and development program.
According to the United States Department of Education, the federal work-study program was established to provide funds for undergraduates to finance the cost of post-secondary education.
Approximately 3,400 institutions participate in the program across the country. Students are selected for the program through Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA. The form determines financial need for each student based on their household incomes.
Under the work-study program, universities are allowed to give students job opportunities on their campuses or allocate jobs in the community for the students.
The work-study program at the University of Mississippi provides students with 10-15 hours of work on campus per week where they are paid $7.40 per hour. Undergraduates at the University of Mississippi have embraced the opportunity to work on their campus.
Davis, 19, is originally from Greenwood, Mississippi. She is currently a freshman business management major at the University of Mississippi. Davis’ work ethic began early in her small Southern hometown.
“It’s a really small place…like the stereotypical southern aspect from a northerner’s point of view,” said Davis. “That’s Greenwood. Everyone knows everyone.”
Those small town connections helped Davis find her first job during her junior year of high school. Davis worked as a hostess and waitress at Giardina’s, an upscale restaurant/hotel combination in Greenwood.
“My favorite part [of the job] was being able to balance and prioritize,” said Davis.
While Davis’ work at Giardina’s kept her busy, Davis also remained active in multiple honor societies and clubs throughout high school.
“My job did not affect my grades,” said Davis.
Davis also stated having a job in high school was rewarding and gave her skills she still uses today.
Davis’ work ethic from high school and focus on her academic career continued into college where she decided to apply for the work-study program at the University of Mississippi.
Davis currently works as a consultation coordinator for the writing center stationed in Lamar Hall. The work-study program gives students the unique opportunity to balance their academic, working and social lives.
Through the program, Davis typically works three hours per weekday. With the flexible hours, she is able to incorporate social and academic activities into her life at the university. In her free time, Davis is a Luckyday Scholar and mentor for the center of inclusion.
Davis’ job at the writing center has also opened doors for new friendships and helped Davis maintain old friendships.
“My favorite part of working on campus is I get to meet a lot of new people,” said Davis. “Another part of working on campus, it’s a place where friends can come if they need me.”
One of the people Davis met through her career with work-study is Kendra Scott.
Scott, 24, is originally from Memphis, Tennessee. She is currently pursuing a major in communication sciences and disorders at the University of Mississippi. She also works in the writing center.
Similar to Davis, Scott believes having a job in college is an ideal situation because it helps students learn to prioritize their time.
“This line of work requires attention to details,” said Scott. “Having a job in college is ideal to help create a preliminary balance between work, education and everyday life.”
This balance is also important for Davis. Her love for human interaction helped her choose her future career. She hopes to attend grad school for business or psychology. After receiving her master’s degree, Davis hopes to work in organizational psychology or corporate law.
Davis believes her work at the writing center will help prepare her for her future occupation, whatever it might be.
“Any job where you interact with people and you have to find out how to treat people, keep your composure, and help things run smoothly are life lessons that will help you do any job in the world, and that’s what I do here,” said Davis.
For more information on applying for work-study at the University of Mississippi please visit the office of financial aid’s website.
Hear more on Davis’ life in Greenwood, Mississippi here.