Katrina Kelly officially resigned as SGA Director of Communications in an email released earlier in January. In the email, the senior mentioned, “I have recently, out of financial necessity, accepted additional part-time work off-campus and will now be working hours equivalent to full-time employment.” Kelly further stated, “This in addition to full-time coursework in the upcoming Spring 2019 semester will make continuing work with the SGA impractical and counterproductive to important departmental functions.”
In an interview with The Retriever, Kelly further elaborated on her situation. Kelly’s time with SGA has been a positive experience for her, with her decision to leave not reflecting any issues with the organization. Instead, the economic reality she currently faces imposes many challenges. She said, “It’s been a struggle to live an adult life outside of UMBC, having to pay bills, not having familial support.” This motivated her to drop her extracurricular activities to focus on her studies to ensure a smooth graduation.
Kelly’s case fits into a larger pattern where students are now juggling their academics on top of multiple jobs and managing families. Modern employer requirements pressure students to pursue extracurricular activities and internships in order to stand out from their peers in the job market. Non-traditional students also have to deal with obligations such as long-term relationships, child care and related duties.
Students who are dealing with increasing costs of living and tuition often find themselves working on top of their academics just to make ends meet. Many stay at home for longer periods of time due to the lack of affordable housing, which also influences the decision to forestall other related milestones such as having families and making larger purchases that previous generations could afford to make.
This has inspired several terms in the American cultural lexicon, such as “boomerang kids” and “accordion families,” the latter of which was further remarked upon by sociologist Katherine Newman in her book of the same name. Newman points the finger at the increased pressures of a globalized economy, as job seekers must now compete on a global labor market.
Kelly, a non-traditional student, is acutely aware of the economic situation that she is placed in. “In a lot of ways, [this started] long before I came here.” Her status as an adult learner, a student over the age of 25, is influenced by changing employment criteria. “The job market’s changing. The economy’s changing. The requirements for landing a job that you can really support yourself, really accelerate in and grow in require more.”
This observation was noted when Kelly attempted to get a temporary job in data entry. Without a relevant degree, her application was denied. Despite her extensive years of experience, the absence of any credentials barred her from employment. This, combined with her decision to leave a failing marriage, brought her back to higher education.
Despite the need to refocus her efforts, Kelly’s academic performance is not in any sort of jeopardy. She will be graduating soon and will return to the workforce. However, she sees her situation as being part of a larger pattern and remains concerned about the lack of awareness about these economic issues, hoping for an honest dialogue about the current state of affairs. She said, “America is a great country, but we’re not without flaws. The flaws that we have are pretty serious, and the way forward has to embrace that.”