On many campuses, the largest segment of campus workers are students, outnumbering faculty, staff and other workers combined.Undergraduates work for their degree-granting institution as painters, maids, janitors, cooks, groundskeepers, truck loaders, physical therapists, daycare staff, teaching assistants, computer technicians, coaches, security guards and administrative assistants, typically for wages at or near the national or local minimums.

I first starting thinking about this at the University of Louisville, where I first received tenure. I arrived in 1998, shortly after the university began a much-ballyhooed “partnership” with UPS and other local institutions of higher ed. By reserving the education benefits of its “Earn and Learn” programs to workers willing to work undesirable hours, UPS has over the past decade recruited approximately 50,000 part-time workers to its least desirable shifts without raising the pay (in fact, while pushing them to work harder for continually lower pay against inflation). The largest benefit promises are reserved for students who think they can handle working after midnight every night of the school week.

UPS refuses to provide meaningful persistence figures for the more than 50,000 students it has “aided” over the past decade. But of the 10,000 students it has “aided” at the Louisville hub, it could account for little more than 300 degrees earned, including both bachelor’s and associates’ degrees.

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