So I was discussing the cost of attending college with a friend of mine a while back, and it occurred to me that few people ever look at it the right way. There are all kinds of statistics about current costs vs. prices from decades ago—adjusted for inflation, not adjusted, or simply made up numbers that seem real. I was left with the question: How do I make a cogent argument in a debate with a right-winger who thinks costs are out of control, but also doesn’t think the government should do anything about it?
Here’s what I came up with:
That, there, is a chart showing how long I had to work at the 1984 minimum wage to pay for a six-hour summer session compared to how long I would have to work under the 2011 minimum wage to pay for the cost of the same summer session at current prices. I have not adjusted wages for inflation, because it is not necessary. It’s all about buying power with the money you have at the time.
Telling, isn’t it?
Back then I paid for a full summer session (tuition, fees, and books) with about a week’s worth of work at a minimum wage job. I just wrote a check and called it a day. Today I would have to work the same job at today’s minimum wage for nearly nine weeks in order to pay the cost of a summer session.
As tuition rises, the road to higher education in America gets steeper and harder to climb for lower and middle-income families.– Andres Avila
There are a lot of reasons for this, and your mileage may vary, but this is the reality facing today’s college students. And that’s just for a summer session.
There was a time here in the Great State of Texas that the legislature covered a large portion of college tuition. They saw it as an investment in the future of the state. Those days are long gone, and the death spiral coincides with the hijacking of state government by Republicans. Investment is a dirty word to them… it’s all about profit and loss. Every dime they can squeeze out of a school’s budget is a profit, while all investment in education is labeled a loss.
The true loss for the state is the amount of productivity young graduates give up chasing their college debt.
Oh yeah… I graduated debt free. No scholarships. All three degrees.
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