Why American Millennials in College Deserve More Than the Cost of Education

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Current Events/Politics

When you were a college student, did you work? Or, if you’re currently a college student, what do you do for work?

I’m sure you’re tired of the questions — the ones that sound like “How are you paying for school? College is just so expensive,” and “How are you going to pay off those student loans? Better start paying them now.” While they are all coming from well-intentioned “adultier adults,” they are sure to grate on you after a while.

But the truth of the matter is that the cost of college today almost requires the average student to work in order to pay that aforementioned tuition.

Recently, ABODO, a startup that specializes in helping potential renters (including college students) with finding local, affordable apartments, released “The Old College Try,” a report based on statistics surrounding working college students. The statistics are astounding, but honestly not surprising considering the current state of the economy.

By the report’s definition, a “working student” is a “student in a two- or four-year undergraduate degree-granting program who works 27 weeks per year.” The report goes on to indicate that “52% of working students in the United States” fit the above definition. Do you? 

In addition to work, these students are of course still determined to do whatever it takes to get their respective educations. According to the report, “almost 25% of students are paying for college with some of their own money, while only 11% of students are not paying for college with any of their own money. Students are spending most of their money on food (83%), books (70.7%), transportation (70.7%), bills (57.7%), tuition (50.7%) and housing (49.8%).”

But, let’s stop talking about money for just a second… and let’s talk about time.

Between classwork and homework, papers, exams and extracurriculars (which have become almost necessary for any college student to put on their resumes), students’ weeks are consumed. Not to mention, college is not just for classroom learning and extracurriculars, either. The friendships you make in college have the potential to lead to lifelong friendships, even if you’re getting together in a different way than you were before, when you were students. But socializing, like anything else, is another time commitment, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Then add a job to a typical college student’s list of commitments — which forces us to take a hard look at probably the report’s most startling statistic: “the largest portion of students attending both public and private schools work between 31 and 40 hours a week.”

40 hours a week? That sounds a lot like the definition of “full-time.” The college experience is meant to get students ready for the working world and to make them more well-rounded, giving them education both in the classroom and — cliché I know — in the “school of life.” It’s not meant to launch students into full-time work before joining the world of full-time work.

Which brings us back to money. The cost of college has skyrocketed to the point that students need to work full-time hours in order to earn their degrees — and, in turn, overloading their schedules, possibly missing out on important lessons outside of the classroom, and, according to this report from the University of Georgia, not getting enough sleep.

So, what are we to do? What needs to change, to be regulated? Is there a need for greater government involvement in the cost of college? What opportunities should be made a priority?

I’m not saying I have the answers. But there’s one thing I can say for sure: in terms of both time and money, our country’s college students deserve better.

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