Worsening Economy Hits Students

Higher costs, tough job market make students cautious.

ByABC News
November 7, 2008, 2:42 PM

Nov. 11, 2008 -- Johnathan Dixon, a senior at New Jersey Institute of Technology, can't help but laugh at the irony of his chosen major--finance--and his current predicament.

Once an aspiring investment banker, Dixon has had to rethink his career plans, and for the first time in his college career, Dixon had to accept an on-campus job. He works at NJIT's accounts payable department making $8.50 an hour.

"I took the job essentially out of desperation, I needed the money," said Dixon.

Last year Dixon's father was laid off from his job, causing Dixon to take on more financial responsibilities.

"There's only one stream of income, which only allows [my parents] to barely cover the bills," he said. "I used to get money, like maybe $50 a month, but I had to get a job, start paying my own phone bill, gas."

As Americans struggle to make ends meet during this economic crisis, students have not been shielded from the turmoil. Whether they are rethinking their post-grad plans, or taking on more responsibility to help out at home, students have had to smarten up and make some major adjustments.

According to Dixon, students at a commuter school like NJIT have had to cut back on their driving. "If you don't rely on a job, gas going from 30 dollars to fill your tank to 65 dollars to fill your tank is a big deal," said Dixon. These days Dixon relies on public transportation.

"If anything more generally people are driving less, absolutely driving less. I used to go home every weekend; I've been home probably twice all year," said Dixon, who lives roughly an hour from campus.

But boarding the bus isn't the only change Dixon sees from his peers. "Another thing I'm realizing is kids are stealing a lot more, like food," he said, "because you got to eat."

As much as Dixon laments having to change much of his spending behavior, his sympathy goes out to his father and those like him who are out of work when they need money most.

"When you're an adult and you're at that stage nearing retirement, it's kind of disheartening. That kind of pays a toll emotionally. It's just real stressful." He adds, "More so now than ever I feel like I'm going to try to get a job to help out at home. Not even help out at home but fully emancipate myself, and take all my financial burdens off of them."