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Working Through College: Then vs. Now

It’s common for young millennials to hear about their grandparent’s college experiences. I know plenty who will go on about how they worked through college. Some call the younger generation lazy, but statistics show otherwise.

To start, let’s go back to 1986. That’s 30 years ago, a time when the previous generations worked through college. Minimum wage was $3.35. This seems so little compared to today. But numerically, it’s not so little.

On average, a public college’s tuition would cost $1,459 per semester. Figuring that the average college student takes 15 credit hours per term, this equates to $97.20 per credit hour at a public school.

Comparing that to today’s economy, a public college’s tuition, on average, is $4,705 per semester. This would equate to $313.33 per credit hour if there were a standard 15 credits being taken at a time.

If you put the $97.20 from 1986’s tuition and apply it to todays world, the computed equivalent (with inflation) would be 213.06 now. This is a large difference from the actual cost of $313.13 listed above. In fact, that’s a barely shy of a third more than college was in 1986 respectively.

In addition, from 1986 to 2016, college tuition would be $6,396.06 economically speaking. This means that with inflation, a full public college’s tuition would be $6,396 per year. In reality, the college tuition skyrocketed past that to $9,410 per year.

These statistics are saying that there is a reason more loans are being taken out. College is notably more expensive when compared to what it was decades ago. Loans are needed more now because college tuition has gone up so drastically. As the cost of college goes up, the minimum wage cannot keep up. Once upon a time, a college credit was able to be paid with working a minimum wage job for a few shifts per week. It would take weeks to months to pay off a college credit in this generation.

Today, the student debt is the highest it’s ever been. 54% of baby boomers reported that they didn’t even take out any loans while they were in college. Millennials, on the other hand, had 1-in-8 say that they had borrowed $50,000 or more to fund their education. This means that throughout their lives they’re stuck with paying more than $50,000 back to private and federal institutions. That money they finally earn with the degree they worked for is deducted because college is so expensive.

Loans today are almost essential to the lower and middle class. It’s also becoming more essential to have a college degree in order to even find a full time job that will pay enough to live on. Without a degree, there’s a bigger risk of needing to live a life in poverty.

Despite this, 25% of millennials say that the benefit of their degree wasn’t worth the loans needed to fund it. This is a perfect example of why it’s important to get the best loan. No one likes loans, and no one wants to pay their loans, but sadly, if you want to go to college in 2016 you will most likely need loans. Two ways to become less wary about a loan is thinking about the payment plans or carefully looking at the terms and conditions before signing a loan.

Unfortunately, it isn’t the day in age where working part-time can fund a full-time education. In most cases, even working full-time can’t guarantee an education – especially if you’re working without a college degree. Having a college degree brings in over $23,000 more income, on average, so it’s imperative to decide if a college education is worth the money.

 

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