Believe it or not, it used to be entirely possible to pay for college by working a minimum wage job during the summer months.
Unfortunately, today’s college students would need to work full-time hours all year around to even come close.
NPR’s Anya Kamenetz illustrated the millennial struggle with some simple math.
In the early 1980s, the average cost of college was $2,870 per year for tuition, fees, room and board, according to data from the College Board. Students could earn that money working a minimum wage job ($3.35 per hour), if they worked 9 hours a day for three straight months – or, if they worked a part-time job (16 hours per week) all year around. It wasn’t necessarily easy, but at least it was do-able.
Today’s students, on the other hand, face a much greater challenge. Even if they choose to attend an in-state public school, the average cost is $19,548 per year. The maximum Pell Grant award last year was $5,775, so even in the best-case scenario, students still owe around $13,773.
Kamenetz calculated that students working minimum wage jobs ($7.25 per hour) would need to work 37 hours per week all year around to earn that money. That’s basically a full-time job in addition to attending school — and keep in mind, all of that work is just to pay for school and nothing else.
Students who live in cities that have raised the minimum wage are hardly any better off, because tuition and housing costs are higher in those areas as well.
All this means that students who aren’t getting financial assistance from their parents will almost certainly need to take out loans to afford a quality education.
It’s no wonder that education is a top concern for millennials in 2016, and young people are willing to support candidates who promise to foot the bill.