Temple University is offering $4,000 grants as a financial incentive to keep students who need to work to pay college costs focused on completing their degrees on time.
Students working off-campus jobs to help pay education costs have been a familiar scenario for many at Temple University for decades. Temple University officials said the new “Fly In 4” program is an attempt to keep college costs affordable and help reduce student debt.
“I’m starting to struggle now in trying to find a balance between working and getting school work done,” said Gregory Griffin, 20, a second-year film major from Montgomery County.
“My parents are very willing to help. They pretty much put my sister through college and offered me the same things. I’m working so they would not be completely responsible for all my money needs,” said Griffin, who was engrossed in studies Friday at Temple University’s Morgan Hall food court at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
Griffin works a minimum 20 hours each week as a residential assistant in an off-campus housing complex. All of his pay goes toward housing costs. But he has found the demands of his job encroaching on his time to study.
“For nearly 50 years, researchers have shown that college students employed more than 15 hours per week during the school year earn much lower grades than do those working fewer hours for pay,” Temple University President Neil Theobold said.
He also stated students add thousands of dollars in debt when they take longer than four years to complete a degree graduate. It also delays the entry into higher paying jobs, which often require a college degree.
Under the “Fly In 4” program, Temple will grant $4,000 grants to students who demonstrate they need assistance in paying for their education. Students must agree to limit the number of work hours each week. They are also required to meet with academic adviser, register for classes early to guarantee their spot, improve their class standing each year and review whether they’re on track to graduate on time before completing 90 credits, which is traditionally their third year.
One of the main requirements for participants in the Fly In 4 financial incentive program is a cap on the number of hours spent working on the job each week. The idea is to leave students more time for studying.
Chelsea Trainor, 20, a Philadelphia native majoring in early childhood education, said a $4,000 grant would go a long way toward easing financial pressure.
“That would be seriously helpful,” said Trainor, who works as a waitress-bartender to pay her college education. But she believes the program should not limit the number of hours students can work if they can balance the demands of their work and their academic studies. A typical shift lasts 10 hours.
“If they have the capacity to go to school and work that much, they should be able to get the benefits of the program if they maintain a strong grade-point average and still work more than 10 hours,” said Trainor, who was eating lunch with friends on Temple University’s main campus.
According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, the percentage of full-time, full-year dependent undergraduates with unmet need is highest among families earning less than $30,000 annually and families in the middle-income bracket earning $45,000 to $74,999.
Nearly 74 percent of low-income undergraduates and 75 percent of undergraduates at a public four-year university have an unmet need, according to results reported in the NASFAA’s Journal of Student Financial Aid.
By comparison, the NAFSAA stated the percentage is 49 percent for middle-income students, 16.3 percent for upper-middle-income students from families earning between $75,000 and under $100,000 and 4.6 percent for students from high-income families earning $100,000 and up.
Temple University spokesman Raymond Betzner said college tuition has become an increasing financial burden for middle-income families.
“We need to market this Fly In 4 to the class that is going to be coming in September 2014. We wanted to get up and running for Experience Temple Day so we could talk about it,” Betzner said.
Trainor’s friend, Brendan King, 19, of Lansdale, said he has been taking on more debt to complete his degree in finance. He said students should be rewarded for completing their degree in fewer than four years because it will reduce student’s debt at graduation and lessen strain on financial aid program run by the federal and state governments.
Officials at other Philadelphia-area universities are focused on making college more affordable with a five-point plan. Drexel University’s student retention program is focused on increasing the graduation rate from 68 percent to 80 percent by 2019, increasing the number of admitted students who enroll and improving student preparedness.