Oct. 7, 2013
Money is always a consideration for students like Dakota Valdez, a junior in business administration who is taking five classes while working full time and living at home with her parents.
“If I wasn’t living at home, I wouldn’t be going to college,” said Valdez. “There’s no way I could afford it.”
But while students work around the clock to make ends meet and few jobs remain for young adults, the economy is expected to grow in 2014, according to Tom Zwirlein, professor of economics.
“We’re kind of slowly grinding our way out,” said Zwirlein, who teaches in the College of Business.
“[Colorado Springs] lost a little more of our manufacturing base since 2001, and as a result there are parts of the country that are improving much faster than us.”
However, Zwirlein noted Colorado Springs is rebounding in a few areas, including the residential housing market. He referenced low mortgage rates, military presence, the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires and the desirability of Colorado Springs as factors.
“We’ve also seen a pretty big rebound in auto sales,” said Zwirlein, which he added is expected as soldiers return from Afghanistan.
“The rest is the part that’s coming back pretty, pretty slowly,” he said. Manufacturing has been on the decline in Colorado Springs, and Zwirlein points to this as an issue for the local economy.
“A lot of the stuff that we used to produce was shipped over to Asia between 2001 and 2003, and it’s not the type of thing that’s going to come back very rapidly,” he said.
“The U.S. is actually regaining some of its competitive advantage in manufacturing, but it’s spotty,” continued Zwirlein.
But an improving local and national economy doesn’t necessarily mean college students will be able to support themselves, however.
“Since the recession, we are just not creating those jobs that provide enough income for a young adult to make a living wage,” Zwirlein stated.
“There are some communities that do a better job of that and the wage rate at that younger demographic is higher. Unfortunately, Colorado Springs is not one of them.”
“Income and wage rates in southern Colorado are lower than the state averages,” said Zwirlein. “People will move out of Colorado Springs and move up along the Front Range and take advantage of the higher wages.”
Zwirlein added, “If you want to keep these young people … if you want to keep them here, you’ve got to pay them money.”
Valdez noted the change she experienced within her particular sector: “This year has definitely been a lot slower. Busy season was not the way it usually is, and people were more frugal.”
Emily Seats, a junior double majoring in psychology and criminal justice, works part time and attends school full time.
“I’ve worked at Tan Your Hide for about 6 months … before that I worked delivering pizzas about 25 hours a week on top of full-time classes,” she said.
“Right now I’m working part time… I definitely started working longer hours as a necessity when I moved out.”
Seats lives at home with her parents and, like Valdez, stated she would be unable to afford living alone.
“I make enough for all of my bills but not enough for a rent payment anymore,” Seats said, referring to her decision to cut work time. “[It] was a personal choice to focus more on school while I had the opportunity.”
To serve UCCS students interested in acquiring a job or two, the work-study program on campus has been aiming to keep up with the high demands of its students.
“We have so many students who would like work study, we just don’t have enough money to offer them,” said Jevita Rogers, director of financial aid and student employment and scholarships. “We definitely get a lot more money than other schools, and we have a lot more students that want it.”
According to Rogers, work study from the federal government, state and university are on par with last year’s totals. When the federal government allocates federal work study, the university matches it.
“The economy in some ways is getting better for some opportunities like part-time jobs,” she said. “We have a very unique population here at UCCS where a large portion of our students do work … unfortunately, there’s never enough funding available.”
As the student population rises, Rogers applies the growing numbers to adjust the distribution of funds.
“The budget group that determines the allocations money has always been very generous with work study monies because they know our students want it,” stated Rogers.
Rogers identified the budget strains within each department as the reason for hiring more work study as opposed to hiring hourly.
“What happens is that each department on campus … we all have an office budget. Some of our budgets are very limited,” said Rogers. If a budget is too limited for hourly, a department relies on work study.
Work study is less expensive, she explained, because 75 percent of a federal work-study student’s pay comes from federal dollars.
Rogers also spoke of the non-effect of the local Colorado Springs economy’s slow growth on the student employment and financial aid offices.
“Because the university gives us money to hold everything stable, we have not been affected as much as we could have,” Rogers stated.
“I know there are a lot of other financial aid offices that are much worse off than I am … This university is definitely very committed to the financial aid programs that we have.”