Are College Students Required to Work?

Terry is calling because her stepson is headed off to college next year. He's received scholarships, and Terry wants to know if she and her husband should still encourage him to get a job.

QUESTION: Terry in Iowa is calling because her stepson is headed off to college next year. He’s received a lot of money in scholarships, and Terry wants to know if she and her husband should still encourage him to get a job. What does Dave say?

ANSWER: I don’t require that every kid get a job in college. That was not what I was saying. What I was saying was rather than going into debt, so as opposed to going into debt. It sounds like this college—between his scholarships and you—is paid for.

What I would say to you is between you and your husband and him, you need to come up with $5,000. We don’t need to go into debt. If that means him working a little bit or you guys sacrificing on this or that, that’s fine. You’re that close to him going to school debt free, then somebody needs to earn $5,000. Avoid the debt. That was what I was ranting about.

Let’s pretend he can go to school and maintain his grades and maintain his character. He is the type of young man who is out there doing some other things and so forth. I’m fine with that. My three children all have great character, I’m very proud of them, they all have a great work ethic, and none of them worked in college. That was subject to their behavior. Certainly, we were in a position that we wrote a check and there was no debt involved. If you’re sitting there saying—and I guess the part you picked up on the show the other day was me saying work a part-time job and pay cash rather than running up student loan debt. If there’s a choice between that, yeah, I think you can do that and still maintain your grades.

In this case, between the four of you and maybe him working a little bit on something, then maybe he can work in the bookstore and get his books free or something—that kind of stuff—however it works out. That’s my big thing: work enough to avoid debt. Other than that, it was not a statement, and it doesn’t hurt. It does help you to build character to work. There’s nothing wrong with that. Our kids have all worked in other situations. They were all in ministries doing volunteer work and those kinds of things. Then in the summers, they worked to earn money. They’re not going to come home and sit on the couch in the summertime. That’s not an option either. We want to make sure they have a work ethic, but where you’re able, I don’t require them to work. I just said it’s not a sin to work. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not a bad thing.