“Work to pay for school” is a common refrain. Paying for college through work earnings, however, has grown increasingly difficult due to rising college costs and stagnant wages. In this study, I examine how the relationship between college costs and student employment has changed over time. Specifically, I analyze data from four administrations of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:04, NPSAS:08; NPSAS:12; and NPSAS:16). I find that both the likelihood of employment and average weekly hours worked has declined between 2004 and 2016, never recovering from the 2008 recession. Using Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition, semiparametric reweighting, and recentered influence functions, I find that the probability of a student working while in school has become more closely related to local unemployment rates over time, and less closely associated with college price.
Paper available upon request.