Return to Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site

Return to Nicholas Johnson's Iowa Rain Forest ("Earthpark") Web Site

Return to Nicholas Johnson's Blog, FromDC2Iowa

Students find new ways to earn cash

Hieu Pham

Iowa City Press-Citizen

September 26, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

As tuition increases become an annual expectation, college students not only are working more but also are seeking creative ways to earn money.

Kyle Obrecht, a University of Iowa senior who plays online poker and gambles at casinos to make rent, is one of them.

"Gambling has paid for me to live in the last couple of years," said Obrecht, 21. "I didn't come here with much. My family is really poor so I have to pay for everything. (Gambling has) really paid for everything my scholarships didn't."

UI's tuition for 2006-07 increased by 8.5 percent, going up from $2,806 to $3,067. Out-of-state tuition also increased to $9,179, up 7.4 percent from $8,499.

Obrecht, who recently got a part-time job at Jay's Fish and Chips in the Old Captiol Town Center, admits that gambling is risky. However, it's proven to be much more lucrative than any regular job, he said.

Since he started three years ago, Obrecht has made more than $7,000. That money is used for rent, utilities, food and to chip away at $13,000 in college loans. Most of his earnings come from online poker because Obrecht, who turned 21 in June, wasn't old enough to gamble at a casino.

At his first casino visit, Obrecht won $600. Although he now prefers the casino, Obrecht still plays online three days a week.

Cindy Seyfer, who oversees student employment services through her role as UI's assistant director of financial aid, said the average college student is the working college student.

"Employment is something that's very important to our students," she said. "Whether that's during student orientation or throughout the school year."

For that reason, UI created an Internet job database called Jobnet 14 years ago. The site, updated regularly, posts jobs available on campus and by off-campus employers.

Seyfer said Jobnet's popularity is reflected by demand, especially as student population increases.

UI's freshman class is up by 440 this year, or 10 percent, to 4,289, making it the largest in school history. The total fall enrollment is 29,979, which is 337 students, or 1 percent, more than 2005.

"There are a number of employment opportunities available," Seyfer said. "The largest UI employers would be the Iowa Memorial Union, University Housing (residence halls) and the library."

Wages vary with jobs, Seyfer said, but the average is about $7 a hour. One of the higher paying UI jobs is driving a Cambus. The drivers are paid $9.75 a hour. Interestingly, there are more off campus jobs posted on the site than UI jobs, she said.

Jobnet's records from the last fiscal year showed 1,276 jobs available on campus and 1,326 off campus.

UI junior Anthony Lobaito, 21, said he found his job as a dealer at the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort through Jobnet.

"The pay is really good," said Labaito, who earns an hourly base pay of $5.50 and has made up to $900 in tips a night. "If I hadn't had this job, I would be hurting."

Besides students such as Labaito and Obrecht -- who said they rely on their jobs to pay off bills, --some students are just looking for easy ways to earn extra cash.

"I sell stuff online," said UI junior Kody Dui, who already works at University Hospitals and said he was looking for something that was easy, fun and profitable.

Three months ago the pre-pharmacy major created an online business at, where he designs Web advertisements to promote company products. He's sold three products so far and earned $600.

"I do it whenever I have free time," Dui said. "It's gas money, and basically extra spending money."

Dui, Labaito and Obrecht said they were happy to find a way to make money using their special talents.

Dui said he wants to make online franchising into a second career. Labaito said he wants to work as dealer in London until he discovers what to do with his life. Obrecht, who is a health and sports studies major, said he is considering becoming a pro poker player on the side.