"Working" Towards a Degree in Community College
This study explored the relationship between community college students' working lives and student engagement. Student engagement has been used as a proxy for student persistence based on its strong association with student persistence and its powerful negative association with school drop-out. Work has been studied extensively as related to student engagement. The existing literature on student engagement and work is contradictory and focuses almost exclusively on adolescent students (i.e., Greenberger & Steinberg, 1986; Mortimer et al., 2002) or four-year college students (i.e., Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; 2005), leaving a notable gap in the community college student literature. Most community college students work full time while attending school, yet little is known about how students' work lives relate to their student engagement. Utilizing Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Framework (1979), which emphasizes the potential for positive and reciprocal relationships between contexts such as work and school, the present study sought to redress the gap in the literature through exploring how Work Intensity, Gender and Work Quality relate to Student Engagement. Students filled out the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) and a Work Quality survey. Using a sample of (277) students, the results of the data analyses revealed the following findings: (1) students who worked more intense hours did not differ significantly in their student engagement than their peers who worked less intense hours; (2) students who worked in intrinsically rewarding jobs were more engaged in school; (3) contrary to predicted, students who worked in higher stress jobs were more engaged in school and (4) work intensity moderated the relationship between extrinsic rewards at work and student effort. These findings add to the literature on community college student engagement as they are somewhat surprising and differ from what we know about student engagement among adolescent and traditional four-year college populations. Namely, community college students may demonstrate a unique ability to balance their school and work lives despite long hours and at times stressful working conditions.