Working one’s way through college was once a time-honored institution. Even people from families with no or little savings would attend college and pay the fees by taking a part-time job and working nights or after class to pay for it. This demonstrated self-sufficiency and was something an individual can be proud of achieving. Unfortunately, certain members of that generation look down on the following generations thinking them inferior and handout-dependent for being unable to do the same.
However, that possibility has become more and more remote for college students in the United States. Initially, according to the College Board, college fees for a full-time student on campus in 1989 were $9,730, inflation-adjusted. With the minimum wage then at $7, a person could pay for college working 1,390 hours at minimum wage with inflation taking into account. Practically, this would require a student to work 12-hour shifts in summer while working 23 hours a week in addition to studies. Despite the challenges, this is still doable.
Today in 2019, a student needs $21,950 to pay for a year of college, which has increased by 126% in the past 30 years. However, the minimum wage is still only at $7.25, and even if someone were to earn $9 an hour, they would still need to work 2,438 hours to pay for college. That is a full-time and a part-time job while still attending classes which is non-sustainable. This situation is unfortunate, as college is viewed as a stepping stone to better opportunities which are only further away from poorer members of society now – leaving young people with the possibility of facing debt if they pursue higher education.