Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jobs and College Students in America

Jobs are the bane of a college student's existence. Here you have a young adult who is willing to go the extra distance to further their education and society has the nerve to slap them in the face with a $15,000 (generally more) price tag and say "get studying." We all know there are simple answers to dealing with the cost of college, and that is to earn a scholarship, apply for financial aid, and work your ass off at a part-time job. The leading arguments against university tuition problems will say you should "work hard in high school and get a scholarship," or "you should qualify for a grant if you can't afford it."
So let's say for a second, a young 18-year old student gets a full scholarship to a state University. Congratulations, you have now acquired 10 more costs to balance out, not covered by your free money which goes straight to tuition. Many people fail to understand the expenses that sit outside the generalized cost of college curve on a student's financial graph.

---- Costs other than tuition while attending college/university (PER MONTH) ----
Transportation: $300+ (insurance + gas + car payment?) extremely variable per person
Food & Living: $100-$900+/month (varies based on home/rent and meal plan or eating habits)
Books: $100-$600/semester (depends on how well you budget, may require software, lab equipment, or other items based on area of study)

As a reference, here are my personal values for a Junior in college, living at home and commuting to a local state university approximately 15 miles away..
Transportation: $300/month (for gas + insurance. Driving to work-school-home 5 days/week)
Food & Living: $75-$100 (eat at home 70% of the time and live there to avoid rent)
Books + Equipment: usually $400/semester (books generally need to be the latest edition, or are specific to my school. This makes it hard to buy used and save money)

Totals: $400/month + $400/semester.
1 semester = 5 months, so we can simplify everything by saying I pay roughly:
$480/month for all things relative to school and living.

Now, working part-time at a standard rate of $7.50/hour, I need to work 64 hours a month just to support my daily routine.

Now, I know my case can't even compare to what some people go through in the real world, and I might be coming off as negative or whiney; but to be taken out of a grade school environment where everything is layed out on the table for you, and get thrown into a non-stop train wreck of chaotic work is something I wasn't really prepared for. What I'm really getting at is:

high school doesn't prepare you at all for the real world.

If you step through a door like mine, you may find yourself scratching your head and looking up to see the floor. Later in life you'll start to feel a strange weight on your shoulders, and as you peer down at the scale of success you'll find it has become bloated by the burdens of stress and responsibility. Things that were so trivial months ago.... budgeting, work, money and time management (more like no-time management...haha) all become hinged on your back; looking into a mirror you watch your body mold and contort itself to sustain the breeding family of life's leeches. This is life. This is what forces children to mature into adults. This is the filter separating the educated from the ones without the magical piece of paper, the degree, the pass that somehow decides if you're qualified for a job where everything you really need to learn is gained through experience. One can't just expect to graduate high school and ride the interstate from sunshine to rainbows. The rigors of the real world and going to college full-time, really need to be pushed on older grade school students close to graduation; not to scare them from the idea of higher education, but to help ease them into a reality which they may have been unaware of, and ill-prepared for their entire life.