College costs far exceed the salaries many students could earn
(Nerdwallet) – There was a time when students could get an undergraduate degree with a part-time job and a little help from mom and dad. But the cost of college education has increased dramatically, unlike wages and hours in a day.
In 1971, tuition, room and board costs at a four-year public institution of higher education averaged $ 1,410, according to the College Board. In the 2020-21 school year, it was $ 22,180. That’s an increase of 1.473%. During the same period, the federal minimum wage rose from $ 1.60 to $ 7.25, or 353%, according to the Department of Labor.
The use of student loans has increased since their creation in the 60s. Today, college graduates who borrow can expect to leave school with nearly $ 30,000 in student debt, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. And while working part-time can help reduce this burden, it is unlikely, if not impossible, to eliminate it altogether. In fact, to cover the cost of their studies, they would either have to find a job that paid well above the national minimum wage or devote an unrealistic number of hours.
How many hours of work would the tuition cover?
University students generally do not have well-paying jobs. For many, this is their first. Assuming they earn $ 9.40 an hour – the average state minimum wage and more than the current federal minimum of $ 7.25 – they should be working full-time at 40 hours per week throughout the year to cover attendance costs. . If they were getting the federal minimum wage, their workweek would have to be 52 hours.
The “cost of attendance” in this case is the average of tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies for four-year public institutions, or about $ 19,500 per year. the 2020-21 school year, according to the College Board. Of course, if they attended a private school or a school where the costs were higher than average, they would need to work a few extra hours.
This net average cost of participation is after give help, which about three-quarters of first-time full-time students in this sector qualify. If they were not eligible for grants, they would have to work more hours. And their wages would be taxed; for simplicity, these calculations assume pre-tax income.
For the average non-student, working 40 hours a week is normal for the course – it’s “adult”. But for a full-time student, this is not only an advanced level exercise in time management, it could hurt their grades as well.
Fifteen credit hours is the typical course load for a full-time student. This means 15 hours of lessons per week. Add to that some study and preparation time away from home, and full-time students typically spend 30 to 45 hours per week on learning activities. Essentially, the time spent studying equals the time typically spent in a full-time job, making it difficult to integrate into another full-time paid job.
But what if a student earns more? Maybe they live in Washington, DC, where the minimum wage is $ 15 an hour, for example. At this hourly rate, they would have to work 25 hours per week, year round to cover attendance costs. Possible? Yes. But maybe only recommended with a light course load and good time management skills.
Student loans are often needed
Grants, scholarships, savings, parent and student paychecks and, yes, student loans are all part of the kitty that funds a degree. Students usually exhaust everyone else before they turn to loans. Only loans are repayable. Yet more than 60% of college graduates leave school with student loan debt, according to the Institute of College Access and Success. With university prices this high, student loans are often needed.
Students have no say in the price of their graduate education stamp or the salaries they receive as young adults. So when they need to resort to loans, minimizing the impact is essential to protect their long-term financial health. To manage student debt, students can:
- Fill in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, in time, each year, to qualify for federal, state, and school grants and assistance as needed.
- Prioritize federal student loans over private student loans, for lower interest rates and features like income-based repayment and student loan cancellation.
- Apply for any scholarships they are eligible for.
- Find a work-study job, if eligible.
- Accept part-time employment only if their course load permits.
Student loans are there for the taking and generally viewed as a package with a college degree. Federal student loans in particular have relatively low interest rates and income-based repayment plans to make their repayment manageable. Take steps to minimize your debt, but avoid putting your grades and your mental or physical health at risk. An unsustainable work-study-life balance can jeopardize graduation and reap the financial rewards – the primary purpose of paying for that education in the first place.
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Elizabeth Renter writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @elizabethrenter.
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