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Aug 03 2016
by Madeleine Williamson

It’s Basically Impossible to 'Work Your Way Through College'

By Madeleine Williamson - Aug 03 2016

A new study by public policy organization Demos reveals something many students might have suspected, USA Today reported yesterday. For many, paying for college with part-time minimum wage work or a summer job is impossible. In all 50 states, the earnings of 10 hours a week at a minimum wage job combined with financial aid and grants aren’t enough for low-income students to pay for public college.

The study shows that working your way through college is a thing of the past. “You hear stories, usually from older Americans, about how they were able to work their way through college and that was actually true. That is certainly no longer the case, and not only are students working longer hours, but they are also taking on massive amounts of debt,” the study's author, Mark Huelsman, told USA Today.

Low-income students are from families with annual incomes under $30,000. But the study has implications for all students. The study found that the average college graduate won’t be able to pay off their loans within 10 years. Black and Latino students fare even worse. They face “affordability gaps” $7000 and $10,000 higher than white students, respectively. The study focused on this “affordability gap.” This refers to the difference between what a student can afford and the cost of tuition or loan payments.

“It should not be this much to pay for college and we shouldn’t have to be in so much debt coming out of college, it doesn’t make much sense,” SUNY at Fredonia student Monica Manney said to USA Today.

Part of the problem is rising college costs. According to the College Board, tuition, room and board and fees rose 149% between 1975 and 2015. Bloomberg reports that tuition increased by 46% just between 2001 and 2012.

Despite rising stress and costs, students are working more to pay for college. So what’s the solution? “We need to really re-think what it means to send someone to public college and what our public mission and public funding should be to make higher education affordable,” Huelsman said.

Lead image credit: a loves dc on Flickr

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Madeleine Williamson - DePaul University

Madeleine Williamson is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in journalism and minoring in political science and Spanish. She loves tea, stationery and exploring her new hometown of Chicago.

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