Because I had some extra time on a Sunday afternoon, I thought I would take the time to convert the cost of college into minimum wage hours. I may need to reevaluate how I spend my free time.
The current federally mandated minimum wage is $7.25.
The current average in-state tuition at a public university is $9,410. That figures out to 1,297 hours of work.
Just for fun, and perspective, the minimum wage and average tuition in 1970 was $1.60 and $358 respectively. That represents a 481% increase in minimum wage hours.
But that is just tuition. People also need to sleep and eat, which costs more money, especially if you intend to sleep indoors. To pay the average room, board, AND the average tuition, a minimum wage worker must put in 40 hours per week- for 15 months.
College accreditation boards assume (dictate) that a full time college student will spend between 24-36 hours per week in class or studying. The variance is due to the variations in class content and student aptitude. Let’s call it 30 hours for simplicity.
40 hours working, plus 30 hours schooling, leaves 98 hours per week to also fit in 56 hours of sleeping, giving a student 6 hours per day left over. How luxurious. Anyone can do that right?
Perhaps one can. It would be hard of course, but anything worth doing is hard right?
Maybe those extra six hours a day are necessary for beer-pong and protesting things. Or maybe they are needed to work out ways to find a minimum wage job that will schedule you for 40 hours per week, which doesn’t happen because that’s full time and requires benefits, so probably the student needs two part time jobs that will each schedule out 20 hours a week. If they are both on campus this could work, cut down on travel time and whatnot, but if not this kid will need to schedule in some travel time. On a bus. Because I forgot to figure in the expenses associated with a car. Or laundry. I’m going to pretend this is a pretty responsible student and assume they cut out beer-pong.
The math proves it can be done- at least in a perfect vacuum without unexpected expenses or buying toiletries- or income taxes.
But… and of course there is a but…
This student will not be able to do an internship, play any sports or join any clubs. This student will have to go to class, study, and work, forget playing around. No high jinks or animal house ballyhoo, which sounds like the no nonsense real life dictates any responsible parent would tell their child. Especially if that parent is doling out advice with the wisdom of their own experience from back in 1970.
Which makes me a little sad and terrified.
Sad because things are indeed different now, but also terrified because college’s usefulness is really in all those things outside the classroom. Doing good in class puts a lot of stuff inside your head but it doesn’t put your butt into a job. Most of the things that lead to jobs, like relationship networks, internships, experiences, and interviews, all happen after hours.
That isn’t even considering the things that lead to actual learning and thinking, like study abroad, field work, and participation in diverse experiential activities. This minimum wage working, public school going, student will be working very hard to get the bare minimum of what colleges offer and is very likely going to get some negative feedback from Mom and Dad when they ask for extra money or bring home loads of extra laundry and this student will probably get a lecture about how it was back in the old days and how kids didn’t complain and they did it themselves so quit being a complainey little snowflake.
So, dear snowflake, let me help you a little. What follows is not science, nor does it consider things like taxes and interest, but it gives you a thumbnail of how now compares to then in the spirit of making apples versus oranges more into apples versus crab apples.
Salary- $6,186= $515.50 per month no taxes
Cost of home- $23,600/3 years salary/$65.50 per month for 30 years no interest
New car $3,542/$59 per month for 5 years no interest
Healthcare $380 per year= $31 per month
Rent $65.50 + Car $59 + Ins $31 = $155.50 or 30.16% of income
Minimum wage- $1.60
Tuition at local state U- $358= 223 hours minimum wage work
Salary- $51,939= $4,328.25 no taxes
Cost of home- $292,891/5 year salary/$813 per month for 30 years no interest
New car- $30, 152/$502 per month for 5 years no interest
Healthcare $9,810= $817 per month
Rent $813 + Car $502 + Health $817 = $2132 or 49.25% of income
Minimum wage- $7.25
Tuition at local state U- $9410= 1297 hours minimum wage work
College is 481% more expensive today when converted to minimum wage hours.