Today’s students are spending more time working in a paid job — while also racking up student loan debt — than they spend on their degrees.

According to Bloomberg, 85 percent of students also work. The typical student spends a little more than four hours a day in paid employment, which is two hours more than they spend in the classroom.

However, despite this hard work and dedication, the country’s total student debt currently sits at $1.4 trillion, and Americans are facing years of financial uncertainty.

How Much College Really Costs

The College Board states the average student will pay $34,740 a year for college tuition, fees, room and board. However, an undergraduate spot at one of the country’s prestigious colleges can cost as much as $76,650.

On top of this, the typical student will rack up $4,321 of personal debt while they’re studying. In total, it’s estimated that over a four-year college degree, a student will be hit with $100,000 in costs and expenses, and will typically have a funding gap of $80,000.

So it comes as no surprise that most college students juggle employment alongside their studies. However, John Hupalo of Invite Education states that this balancing act could be doing more harm than good.

“Students’ first priority should be to get value out of their education,” he said, “not squeezing out hours at a job in order to make money to sustain that education.”

Footing the Bill

According to a Sallie Mae study called “How America Pays for College,” students cover 30 percent of college costs, while parents pick up about 31 percent of the bill. Other sources of funding come from scholarships and borrowing from relatives.

Seventy percent of college graduates will finish college with an outstanding student loan, indicating this is the main method students are using to pay for their education.

A student loan is a convenient way to get hold of the funds needed to secure a degree. Some loans require a cosigner in the form of a parent of guardian. However, for students whose parents have already paid out a significant chunk of cash on their education, co-signer-free student loans are readily available.

Failing to Prepare

Fewer than 40 percent of parents create a college payment plan for their child, despite almost 90 percent stating that at preschool age they anticipated a future college enrollment.

This is the root cause of the problem.

Over the past 10 years, college costs have risen by 38 percent and neither parents nor students are prepared for the financial outlay. Ultimately, students are having to spend more time working behind a bar or stacking shelves, and less time studying in order to secure the degree that will cement their future careers.

However, if from the moment a child was born, time was spent financially planning for college, life for both students and parents could be more comfortable.

American students aren’t prepared for the true cost of college. As a result, they are falling into thousands of dollars worth of debt and having to spend valuable hours working rather than studying.

But, better preparation could reduce the nation’s $1.4 trillion of debt and ease the financial discomfort most students feel during and after their education.