Working their way through school

Work Hard for the Money — (Left) James Berrigan and (right) Brandyn Dorman both work at Applebee’s to support themselves while in school.

Students juggle work and classes

James Berrigan refers to himself as a “victory-lap senior.” Like many students he has had to stay in school an additional academic semester because he has been working his way through school.

From the onset of his college career Berrigan has worked at three different Applebee’s restaurants and the Bahama Snow Shack. He was a server for two years and for the last four or five months he has worked as a manager.

Berrigan’s parents paid for his first two years of college and he took over paying tuition and living expenses his junior year.

“I’m the oldest of four children and it would have been selfish of me to let my parents foot the bill for my college education,” Berrigan said.

In today’s economy, many college students have had to work their way through school. Not all students are footing the entire bill like Berrigan. Some students work to pay for books and other fees that are associated with the costs of college.

Steve Long, a University of Maryland at College Park alumnus worked an average of 30 hours a week to pay for school.

It took him seven years to complete his degree in government and politics, according to Fern Shen of the Washington Post.

“It got so bad one semester that I had to drop out of all my classes. I was working 30 hours a week driving the bus and taking five classes,” it is tough. I learned you can work so hard to pay for school that you don’t do well in school,” Long told the Post.

Long’s story proves that academic success is often sacrificed at the price of a paycheck.

Berrigan’s heavy workload comes at an academic and social price.

It has taken him longer to complete his bachelor’s degree because he only takes two or three classes per semester.

“I don’t really have a social life. Usually I hang out with people from work. It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to hang out with coworkers since my promotion. Working has also negatively affected my GPA. I focus on tests and papers, everything else gets put to the side,” Berrigan said.

It is not uncommon for parents and students to have discussions about who is going to pay for what and for how long, especially in the time of economic hardship.  Since the recession many students have found themselves taking on more financial responsibility.

“The job market today is looking for people with experience which is exactly what I’m getting right now. I have learned a lot by working my way through school. I have learned to manage my time and budget. I have learned as much through working about the real world as I have by attending classes,” Berrigan said.

Berrigan will graduate in May with a degree in government with a concentration in politics and policy. After graduation he plans to manage Applebee’s for five years with ambitions for running for political office some day.

“I would like to run for a local office for one term,” Berrigan said.

Berrigan manages another Liberty student who is working her way through school, Brandyn Dorman.

Berrigan and Dorman are in the same jurisprudence class taught by Dr. Michelle Crawford Rickert.

“It’s unique to work with Brandyn. She is very easy to get along with. We get along well at work and in the classroom,” Berrigan said.

Dorman echoed Berrigan.

“I love working with James, he trained me,” Dorman said.

Balancing work and higher education has proved to be a character building experience for Berrigan.

“Working through college has been an opportunity to grow as a leader and a person. When you are in authority over others you discover your flaws quickly because people let you know you when and how you are messing up,” Berrigan said.

Brandyn Dorman is a junior majoring in speech communication and is pursuing a minor in western legal traditions.  She plans on pursuing a Master’s degree in communication and then attending law school.

Dorman started working at a Chick-FIl-A when she was 14 and has  worked throughout college as a server at Applebee’s. Dorman’s parents are paying for her tuition and housing. However, she is responsible for everything beyond that.

While Dorman enjoys the financial independence that comes with working, she acknowledges that working while in school is not the best option for every student.

“If your parents are able and willing to help you, let them,” Dorman said.

Dorman is the only member of her immediate group of friends who works. Like Berrigan, working and going to school has negatively affected her social life.

“I do nothing but homework, work and sleep. I could not tell you the last time I went to the dollar movie theater,” Dorman said.

Dorman has experienced the same academic struggles as Berrigan.

“I had to drop a class and I am very afraid of getting a C this semester. I’ve never gotten a C before,” Dorman said.

Although managing work and school can be difficult, it is doable.

“Work is a healthy outlet, I go to work and I forget about the pressures of school for a little while,” Dorman said.

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