Why College Students Can't Afford College

Why College Students Can't Afford College

Why it's impossible to earn a living as a student in the US
458
views

In recent months, I've discovered that it's nearly impossible for a college student to make a living. I've been working minimum wage jobs since I started school at the University of the Pacific two years ago. I live on my own, pay my own rent, buy my own house supplies, pay my own phone bill, the works. While I'm sure plenty of students in the US do this as well, I know literally none at my university. I've never really had anyone to empathize or to go through it with. For the first couple semesters, I was doing okay. Due to the loans I'm taking out for school, I get a refund of almost two thousand dollars at the beginning of each semester. Though I have made a payment on my loans with some of that money, for the most part it acts as a buffer of extra money for when my minimum wage paycheck isn't cutting it for that week or that month. However, by the end of last semester, that money was long gone and I was once again relying solely on the money I get from my job at Payless Shoesource every week. This is not doable.

Since the semester ended, I've been scraping and clawing to get by with enough food to eat for the week, gas for my car, and enough money saved from each paycheck to be able to fork out rent at the end of the month. Aside from just paying for the essentials, being able to go out every now and then is crucial for someone who basically spends 80%-85% of their time in a single room with only a bed as a seating area; in other words, I need to get out.

Since discovering how impossible it is to live off a minimum wage job where I only get about 20-26 hours per week, I've been scouring the area for a new job with the same flexibility to work around my school schedule in the Fall but that also pays a bit more than $10.50 per hour. Little did I know, this was even more impossible.

I've applied to a total of around fifty jobs in the past two months. My focus when applying for these jobs was an entry level position in which the base pay is higher than minimum wage, anywhere from $12.00 per hour or above. After searching through a multitude of job sites, creating a LinkedIn account and getting their job search app, and Googling every possible job avenue I could think of in my area, do you know how many calls I've gotten back? Four. Of those four, I turned out to not be eligible for two of them.

The reason for this is primarily that entry level or non-retail/food service jobs require either multiple years of experience in that field and/or a completely open schedule in which you can work 9-5 every weekday. This is not a plausible reality for a student. Firstly, where and when were we supposed to gain years of experience in a relatively specific job field when we're still in school? I need someone to explain to me how all of these supposed entry level jobs can expect you to have a plethora of experience when you're not able to get hired without the experience? Secondly, how can all jobs expect you to have availability 9-5 every weekday as a student?

Last week I received a callback for a job as a medical scribe–a call I had been awaiting for about a month–and during the brief phone interview I was told that I couldn't be recommended for the job due to my lack of daily availability during the semester. This would make more sense if the recruiter hadn't already known I was a student before the phone interview. However, she and I had been emailing back and forth beforehand and she was well aware that I had a full year of undergrad left before earning my B.A. degree. When I then stated my schedule, which is completely full in the mornings and into the early-mid afternoons, she said that she hadn't even thought about my schedule conflicting with the time frame of the job because most students take night classes these days to be able to work during the day.

This is almost impossible if you do not attend a community or junior college.

At a four-year university you don't have the option to pick if your classes are in the morning, afternoon, or evening. Aside from the standard G.E. courses, you have set courses that you have to take to fulfill your major requirements. These courses are offered typically at only one or two times throughout the week, and not every course is offered every semester. This makes your scheduling flexibility extremely low. Most professors at my university don't want to be on campus extremely early in the morning or late in the evening, making the most popular times for classes the late morning and early afternoon. While not conducive for a work schedule, it's understandable, and it's something I've had to work around for two years. However, while trying to find a better job, it's become apparent that a job working around my class schedule is quite impossible.

I know that there are thousands of college students out there who need to be able to support themselves and pay the bills. While some of them are at community and junior colleges where they can work more with their personal schedules, I know there are also some of them who are going to U.C. Berkeley and Yale and Princeton right now who don't have the luxury of being able to take classes whenever they want, and are seriously struggling to earn a living. It wasn't until I got to college that I realized how work-centered this country is. Students are not rewarded for their hard work and dedication here, instead they're slapped with minimum wage jobs and thousands of dollars in high-interest-rate debt. Shouldn't we be encouraging our higher education students? Shouldn't they be given some kind of respect in the work force if not acceptance and tolerance? I'm two semesters away from earning my Bachelor's Degree and I can't even get hired at Starbucks. What does that say to the students who are on the cusp of making their decision about going to college or entering the workforce?

What's really being said here is that this is a country that doesn't reward or value higher education in the way that it should. In most other developed nations, higher education is free of debt and easily accessible to students of all ages 17+ who come from a wide variety of economic backgrounds. In most other developed nations there is a focus on education and putting out intelligent professionals into the workforce who are prepared with the knowledge they've gained and are ready to dip their toes into their fields. Why is it that in the wealthiest nation in the world I can't seem to make enough money as a college student to even make it through school? The days of working during the Summer to pay your way through college are over. These days you work through Summer to be able to eat throughout the semester. Instead of leaving ready for the workforce, you leave with a lack of the professional experience that most positions deem necessary, and a load of debt that keeps you awake at night. The true American college experience.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

Popular Right Now

7 Truths About Being A Science Major

10334
views

Whether your major is Human Bio, Chemistry, Neuroscience or any other that deals with a lot of numbers, theories, experiments and impossibly memorizing facts, you know the pressures of pursuing a career in this field. So without further ado, here are seven truths about being a science major:

1. There is no “syllabus week.”

Coming back to college in the fall is one of the best times of the year. Welcome week has become most students' favorite on-campus holiday. But then you have syllabus week: another widely celebrated week of no responsibilities… Unless you’re a science major that is. While your other friends get to enjoy this week of getting to know their professors and class expectations, you get to learn about IUPAC nomenclature of alkanes on the first day of organic chem.

2. Your heart breaks every time you have to buy a new textbook.

Somehow every professor seems to have their own “special edition” textbook for class… And somehow it’s always a couple hundred bucks… And somehow, it's ALWAYS required.

3. Hearing "attendance is not mandatory," but knowing attendance is VERY mandatory.

Your professor will tell you that they don’t take attendance. Your professor will put all lecture slides online. Your professor will even record their lectures and make those available as well. Yet if you still don’t go to class, you’ll fail for sure. Coming into lecture after missing just one day feels like everyone has learned an entire new language.

4. You’re never the smartest person in your class anymore.

No matter what subject, what class or what concentration, there will always be someone who is just that much better at it than you.

5. You get totally geeked out when you learn an awesome new fact.

Today in genetics you learned about mosaicism. The fact that somebody can have a disease in part of their total body cells but normal throughout all others gets you so hype. Even though you know that your family, friends and neighbors don’t actually care about your science facts, you HAVE to tell them all anyways.

6. There is never enough time in a day.

You are always stuck choosing between studying, eating, sleeping and having fun. If you're lucky, you'll get three of these done in one day. But if you're a risk taker, you can try to do all of these at once.

7. You question your major (and your sanity) almost daily.

This is especially true when it’s on a Tuesday night and you’ve already consumed a gallon of Starbucks trying to learn everything possible before your . Or maybe this is more prevalent when you have only made it through about half of the BioChem chapter and you have to leave for your three hour lab before your exam this afternoon. Regardless, you constantly wonder if all the stress is actually worth it, but somehow always decide that it is.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Saying "No" Is OK

It is okay to put yourself first and do what's best for you

248
views

It's that time of year again when your days are filled with nothing but class, work, assignments, clubs, extracurricular activities and much more. Your time and brain are going in every possible direction. But what if it didn't have to be that way? What if letting go, actually gave you something back? That's right, I am talking about the word no and all it can do for you.

I too, fall into the trap of doing more is better. Having all my time devoted to activities or work is good for me. Taking nineteen plus credits hours somehow makes me a better person, even smarter person. Well, I hate to break it you, and me, that this thought process is extremely detrimental.

There are no rules that say we must do everything and anything. If there are, they are wrong. And that's why saying no is so important.

Currently, I am taking nineteen credit hours. Soon, I am going to make sure that it is sixteen. After the first week of classes, I discovered I was in a class that would provide me with a wonderful education, but it was not counting towards my major. After thinking about it long and hard, I decided that it would be best to say no to this particular class.

Before this year, I would have said, it's okay (even if it wasn't) and muster through the class. To the old me, dropping a class would be like quitting, but I cannot even begin to tell you, and me, how far from the truth that is.

Saying no is brave. Saying no is the right thing to do. Saying no allows you to excel in other areas. Because I have decided to say no, I am opening two more hours in my day. I am relieving myself of work and projects that would add to my already hectic schedule. I am doing what is best for me.

However, there is a part two to this no phenomenon. Continuing with my example, I now have two open hours in my week. The overachiever in me would try to find something to fill it. Maybe another club or activity. Maybe more hours at work or a place to volunteer. And while none of these are bad things to do or have in your life, you are just replacing a time taker with another. When you say no, mean it and don't fill it.

This is your year to say no. Not because you are lazy. Not because you aren't smart enough. Not because you can't. Say no because it is best for you. Say no because it frees you. Say no because you can!

Related Content

Facebook Comments