Limiting Student Workers: A Narrative Study on Working Caps For Students

Memo Letter

To: Kevin Hughes Ph.D.

From: Joshua C. Rinker

Subject: Maximum Hours For On-Campus Employment

Date: May 16, 2016

The Purpose of this memo is to propose an alternative to give students the ability to work more than twenty hours for on-campus employment. This will be done by implementing a Grade Point Average to maintain while working more than twenty hours.


In short, I believe it is not realistic for students to live independently if they are only able to work twenty hours a week when employed by the university. I would like to talk of possible alternatives to allow students to maximize the amount of allowed hours they can work.


Currently, if enrolled at Christopher Newport University full time, a student is only able to work maximum twenty hours a week at very low pay. This restriction on hours is in place so the university is not legally forced to give benefits and and health coverage to the student employee. Another benefit of the hour restriction is to ensure the student has sufficient time for academics. Both of these benefits eventually turn into hindrances when a student is forced to find a way to earn more money so he or she can pay for tuition, room and board.

To get around these problems, a student should have the option to work more than twenty hours a week if he or she denies benefits from the university. In doing this, the university will be abiding by the law and offering the student benefits, but the student would sign document stating they have refused coverage from the universities employment. As for the grades, the hours a student can work should be a reflection of his or her semester grade point average. For example, if the student can maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.00, he or she should have the ability to work twenty-five hours; if the student can maintain a 3.25 then he or she can work thirty hours; if the student can maintain a grade point average of 3.5 then he or she can work up to thirty five hours and so on…


Although the current restriction on hours is set and very easy to follow, I think this new rule would assist the university in work while allowing student employees to not live with a limitation on their earnings. This change would be very tough to implement, but I believe if you and I sat down, we would be able to come up with an additional solution to the restriction of hours for full-time student workers.



This study is conducted by using a Narrative Report in search to see how people are personally effected by the 20 hour per week cap for on-campus jobs while enrolled at Christopher Newport University as a full time student.  For this study, five students workers were interviewed and questioned on their academics as well as their work history. All students were asked to share an experience on how they did or did not agree with only allowing students to work twenty hours a week. Throughout the interview, the problem that was being faced was that the student workers did not have an opportunity to work more than twenty hours a week even if they were able to balance academics. What can be a solution to this problem? All testimonies showed many different experiences with their academics and work history, along with having different financial support from outside sources such as family, scholarships or loans. Although everyone had differing stories, the end result was similar throughout; all participants being in support of a Grade Point Average Incentive, giving student the ability to work more that twenty hours if they maintained a certain GPA. In the end, student workers, no matter if they worked five or twenty hours a week, all stood in agreeance to present on-campus, full time student workers with the ability to work more hours if they are excelling in their academics.

Key Words: Work, Hours, Pay, GPA, Choice, Opportunity, Incentive



Christopher Newport University currently holds many opportunities for students to work on-campus while enrolled in classes full time (12 credit hours). Although there are many opportunities, once a student earns an on-campus job, they are only allowed to work 20 hours maximum per week. This cap on hours able to work puts student workers in a struggle for money; this said struggle being caused by a low wage combined with a specific number of hours each person is allowed to work. In the end, forcing student workers to get money for living expenses or schooling from outside sources and leading to an increase in debt.

The dilemma researched was Christopher Newport University’s unableness to allow full time students to work more than twenty hours a week. In finding the data, five student workers were interviewed closely, focusing on both hours on average they work per week and their Grade Point Average (GPA). These were the main focuses because it served as a way to understand if hours worked influenced the student workers GPA: seeing if the more the students worked, the lower or higher their GPA was. In doing this, it allowed background to form a solution for the problem because in four of the five interviews, the students workers did not agree with the 20 hour weekly working cap and in some way were in a tough place financially because of their inability to work more hours.

In doing this research, having a GPA incentive program for student workers would not only create opportunity for students to work more, but it showed that all interviewed student workers would focus more on their academics in order to work. This GPA Incentive program would be a way around the 20 hour weekly working cap: if the student can maintain a certain GPA, then he or she can work more hours. This not only motivates student workers to do better academically, but it allows them to work more, earn more money, and not have to worry about working 20 hours when busy weeks in the school year occur. Throughout this study, it is apparent that student workers have struggled financially because a lack of hours able to work, showing how Christopher Newport University can help by creating a Grade Point Average Incentive program.


Theoretical Approach

To collect the appropriate detail needed for this research, I chose to use a Narrative theoretical approach. This was the ideal approach for me because it gives a personal story to how the weekly hour cap has effected student workers at Christopher Newport University. Using unbiased questions, I looked not only at how students are effected, but also at how they relate to each other, then searching for a way to solve this issue.

Although this approach was ideal, not all answers were what I was expecting. Out of five students interviewed, three respondent’s answers were detailed, giving a good sense of how the students were effected, but this was not always the case. The biggest challenge that was faced was the inability to spend sufficient time with each student worker that was interviewed. Since I took the Narrative approach, this was not ideal considering it is an in depth, personal story on how the problem has effected the respondent. Other than time, there was not another problem faced, and all applicants were open to giving as much as they were able. I then was able to analyze and connect each story, all of which were and still are personal to each student interviewed.


Qualitative Data

In order to collect the data needed, a five question survey was sent out followed by an in depth interview question. The survey was used in order to collect quick background information on responding student workers while the detailed interview question focused on a particular instance the respondent was or was not influenced personally by the maximum hours allotted to work weekly at Christopher Newport University. The following survey and interview question is located in the Appendix below.

The survey and interview question approach was used in order to gain in depth knowledge of the respondent as well as giving each a chance to relay his or her personal experience. This is an approach used when conducting a Narrative study. Moreover, all five respondents have worked or currently work for the university and complied with the study in the fullest manner. Three out of five student were sit down interviews, while two completed the survey over email or phone; the email answer being the most in depth, followed closely by two sit down interviews, the phone interview with the least in depth being an applicant that completed a sit down interview. This finding showed me that not one interview process was more or less in depth than the other, showing it relied solely on the responding student worker.

In analyzing the data, I used the media platform Voyeur in order to find keywords. I used this platform for every respondent’s answers and personal story because it chooses keywords that were most prevalent throughout. This helped as I compared each answer and was a great tool used when analyzing the similarities and differences in each answer, majority of which being similarities. After Voyeur was used, I created a graph using ZingChart of the research conclusion. Although this graph only contains 5 applicants, it serves as a strong representative of how the maximum hours student are allotted to work can be altered or incentivized to help future student workers.



For the survey (see Appendix below), the goal was to collect background data on all applicants. This data included hours worked per week and Grade Point Average while working, followed by questions about the current rule that is in effect at Christopher Newport University, putting a cap on hours full time students can work. All applicants that took the survey were knowledgeable of the working cap for full time students with three applicants initially wanting to do away with the rule. Those three respondents all work 20 hours as well as one holds a Resident Assistant position on-campus while another is employed off campus. For each student mentioned above, the RA has a 3.27 GPA, the respondent with two jobs has a 2.96 GPA and the other student working 20 hours has a 3.49 GPA. The applicants not listed work 4 and 10 hours, with a 3.5 GPA for the first and a 2.9 for the latter.  The respondent working 10 hours on-campus also holds an off campus job because the wages are insufficient on-campus.  This survey highlighted the various Grade Point Averages the student workers have no matter the number of hours they work; some respondents were eager to work more, saying the money earned is not enough to pay for school.

At the end of the Survey, question five asks the respondents if they believe a GPA Incentive would help or hurt students that wanted to work more. This incentive program allows students to work more hours if they show the university that they can maintain a certain GPA. The graph below, created in ZingChart shows that 4 out of the 5 applicants would work harder in academics if able to work more.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 2.21.39 PM

This is the information I chose to include in a pie graph form because it supports the override of student worker hourly cap and offers a plan for students, giving them the ability to work as much as they need if they are excelling in their academics. This is a plan that would support the “student first” mentality while still allowing them the opportunity to work and afford said schooling.

As for the Interview, the goal was to receive a personal story from the applicant that expressed how they were effected by the hourly cap. In defense of the personal stories I was told, the respondent’s narratives will not be repeated, but instead analyzed through Data Visualizations such as Voyeur.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 8.33.23 PM

This word cloud was from a respondent that worked 20 hours a week, had an off campus job and a 2.96 GPA. He, like other applicants, struggle making rent, paying for food, and having the ability to live a “normal” college life. He states “I am extremely lucky to have my parents support. They have loaned me money many times for me to be able to pay my rent… On-campus work as a student is not worth it if I cannot work more than 20 hours a week.” He also mentioned how he would work harder to get a 3.00 GPA if that meant he could work more, being in agreeance with the GPA Incentive program.
Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 8.33.05 PM
This is a word cloud from a respondent that has the 3.49 GPA and works 20 hours per week. This applicant being the most passionate about being able to work more than 20 hours per week on-campus in order to live and continue school. He struggles to pay rent and bills as well as affording food because he pays for school on his own, not supported by his parents in any way. He stated “I have tried many times to become employed off campus but without a car, my options are very limited.” Graduating in December of 2016 because he has to take a semester off to earn money and pay for the remainder of school after his Junior year. With a 3.49 GPA, he was extremely in agreeance with the GPA Incentive program saying, “Working more hours [on-campus] would take a lot of stress off my back… Maybe saving for life after college.”
Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 2.26.21 PM

Lastly, this is the student that works 4 hours per week and has a 3.5 GPA. This respondent was the only person that did not agree with the GPA incentive, in short because “it simply doesn’t apply to [her].” She is employed on campus for extra money, but told a story of her roommate that works non-stop to be able to pay rent. Being completely supported by her parents, she is able to focus solely on academics, but say “I don’t know if I am the one to interview. I am lucky to be able to focus only on school.”

When comparing all survey answers and stories given in the interview, they all relate in particular ways. Having a respondent that did not support the GPA incentive program was shocking, but when turned into a word cloud visual, similar words were repeated throughout. Words like “work,” “hours,” “student,” and “money” were all keywords that created a tie between every personal story of the student workers experiences because of the full time student working cap on hours worked per week.

Overall, the comparison of stories using data visualization and a narrative study shows that if a student worker was given the opportunity to work more hours per week on campus, they would. Using the GPA Incentive program would serve as a way for students to work more, while having to maintain a certain GPA, something Christopher Newport University should look into introducing to student workers.



Survey Portion:

  1. How many hours do you work for Christopher Newport University (on-campus job) per week on average?
  1. What is your Grade Point Average (GPA) while working said number of hours?
  1. Are you knowledgeable of the weekly hour cap for on-campus student workers?
  1. What are your initial thoughts on it? Good, Bad, Indifferent?
  1. How many hours would you work on-campus if you were able?


Interview Portion:

  1. Can you please explain in a paragraph or two how limited working hours per week has helped or hurt you in particular areas? (Financially, Academically, Time-Management, etc…) Please use a personal story where the hourly cap has influenced your life as a student in any way.

Following the interview portion I would explain the GPA Incentive program and ask if it would influence them in anyway, positively or negatively.



Data Visualizations:


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