Six tips to finance your education and get the most out of student employment

Making the most of your time at CSU takes a little strategy

Photo courtesy of Cleveland State University

Looking back on four years at Cleveland State University, I can count nine paid student positions that I have held. Sure, promotions and short-term positions inflated this number, but regardless, I have had broad experience with getting the absolute most out of working for the university.

I recommend working on campus for a few reasons. First, the location is incredibly convenient, especially if you live in a residence hall, nearby apartment, or simply want to work in-between classes. Secondly, campus jobs are not allowed to schedule you during your class periods, meaning a flexible schedule that allows you to prioritize academics.

Finally, the connections I’ve made and the knowledge I’ve gained of CSU’s inner workings have vastly improved my experience here- and opened many doors to future opportunities. To help you also get the most out of working on campus, and to help you fund your education, I’ve determined by top six things you should know about financing your education through student employment and more.

Student Leadership Scholarships

It pays to be involved. Literally.

Some student organizations offer Student Leadership Scholarships. These are a per semester monetary award for students holding leadership positions in groups, such as the Student Government Association, Campus Activities Board, The Vindicator, and The Cauldron.

These positions are not well advertised, so ask when applying for large-scale leadership roles about potential compensation. If you’re still new to CSU, I recommend finding an organization you enjoy and working your way up the ladder. It will be worth it, both for improving your social experience and your financial situation.

Desk Jobs = Study Sessions

Many student-facing offices at Cleveland State will employ student office assistants. Duties are simple, such as answering the phone and responding to general inquiries. Often, these jobs do not require intense and prolonged focus, and many allow you to do homework during downtime.

When job hunting, start with the resources you use. Have you been to the tutoring center? Do you live in the dorms? Used a computer lab? These employee front desk workers, and might be great opportunities for a relaxed job.

Get OPERS exempt!

OPERS is the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. As an employee of a public university, you are, in a sense, employed by the state of Ohio. This system takes money out of your paycheck to put in a retirement fund.

However, as your student employment role is likely not your career path, there is no sense in putting away money into this retirement fund. Part of your onboarding process for an on-campus job may involve an OPERS exemption form. Pay attention to this, and submit it before the deadline! The few dollars each paycheck adds up.

Don’t fall for a pyramid scheme

The stereotype of a broke college student isn’t for nothing. For many, this is a period of little income, little time, and high expenses. Thus, the promises of a get-rich-quick scheme are often targeted at college students.

You may already have some exposure to multi-level marketing (MLM) companies, a legally questionable variant of pyramid schemes. MLM Vector Marketing — sellers of CUTCO Cutlery — specifically recruit college students, and are for some reason allowed to table on the Innerlink. Downtown Nutrition, located on Chester Avenue and a personal favorite of Harlan Sands, also sells products from weight loss and supplement MLM Herbalife.

So watch out for business promises that are too good to be true. 99% of people in these businesses lose money, according to research by the Federal Trade Commission, and the business model’s reliance on word-of-mouth marketing means the trade-off of losing all your money or losing all your friends.

Working Overtime

Student employees can only work 20 hours per week. Their logic is that you are a student first and an employee second, which I agree with. However, if your financial reality warrants going beyond this maximum, but you’d still like the flexibility and location of an on-campus job, there are some ways to get around this.

Many offices at CSU are outsourced to third-party companies who serve as your legal employer rather than CSU itself. Thus, the 20-hour maximum will not apply, while other perks still will.

Examples of outsourced employers include the bookstore, recreation center, residence life, and dining. Be sure to ask in your interview if you would technically be an employee of CSU or of their company.

Do the math:

You may remember from your Introduction to University Life class an exercise calculating the “cost of missing class.” Working with the list price of tuition per credit hour, a class meeting three times a week costs a little over $32 per meeting. A class meeting twice per week costs over $48.

Missing a class to work a minimum wage job is simply a poor investment. Failing a class to prioritize a low-paying job costs over $1450, and extending your graduation deadline means another year of paying athletic fees, U-Pass fees, housing costs, and more.

In conclusion, the best financial advice for getting through college is to think long term, and to stay focused on the end goal of graduating. The sooner, the better.

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