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If student debt is a crisis, why aren't college students willing to work?

Continuing media reports detail a range of negative impacts of student loan debt and quality of life issues facing graduates (“As Feds ignore student debt crisis, states like Md. step in,” March 11). Is it reasonable to expect the students, their families and college financial aid departments to seek relief and valuable outside-the-classroom education through experiential learning that is found in the workplace environment? Part-time and summer employment can be part of transitioning from campus life to the realities of the workplace. It was a necessity and practiced personally by my working many part-time jobs during high school and throughout college. Independence, work ethic, integrity and reliability were some of the lessons. It also provided guidance as I may not have known exactly what I wanted to do to foster financial independence, but it helped to define what I did not want to do when employed full-time.

It's troubling, however, that as a part-time employer of college students for more than 10 years and already at the much-discussed $15 per hour rate, it is very difficult to attract applicants. Unfortunately, this sector (student workers) of our population is too often missing in action.

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The role and importance of student employees as support staff for the special needs and disabled and for our aging senior citizens should be expanding. Yet quality support staffing appears to be nearing a crisis. Retailers also struggle. Yet the college enrollment numbers have risen and the percent of students employed in part-time positions has fallen. The experience of holding a job is a very valuable part the education process. It's time to stop protecting youth from what is not always pleasant, but part of the life experience. To recognize that we have delayed adulthood too long and we must allow and direct them down the path that helps them be both independent and contributors.

Let’s reduce student loan debt, provide a greater range of learning opportunities and address the problems of providing employers with a more varied applicant pool while directing college students to earn some of what they need to pay for college.

Dennis R. Shifflett, Forest Hill

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