All aboard the struggle bus, affording life and education

Annie Goodman

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People from the ages of 18 to 25 seem to be having a hard time with money. But why is that? I think this is a complex issue with multiple contributing factors. As a college student writing for a college paper, I feel the most important aspect to consider is college tuition costs. According to ProCon.org, the average yearly cost for a public four-year university in 2016 was $20,967 while only $8,734 in 1971. This is a 140.1 percent increase. Of course, most college students cannot afford this on their own and must seek government assistance in the form of student loans if they are not fortunate enough to receive scholarships. That is up to around $83,868 on average for four years. If an individual, who entered college at 18, relies solely on student loans to afford their education, that is a lot of debt they are in by age 21. Now what do they do? Pay it back, of course. Let us hope they majored in business or finance because my high school definitely did not teach such practical skills as budgeting or interest rates or anything else that would come in handy in the real world. 

Now whether you are in college or not, you must pay to live. According to that same study, the median income in 1971 was $14,915 for women and $42,757 for men in 1971. In 2016, it was $25,901 and $40,445 respectively. Since I am a girl, I will focus on those numbers. In 1971, my college tuition would be a little over half my yearly income whereas today it would be closer to 80 percent of my yearly income. So, I use student loans and allow my minimum wage job to support my daily living needs. The minimum wage is $7.25. Working full-time with 40 hours a week earns me $290 a week before taxes or $1,160 a month. Most cheap one-bedroom apartments cost around $500. Take into consideration groceries, utilities, car note, insurance, gas and any other basic need in 2018 America, and that minimum wage job does not cut it. Now, you can either live on campus and increase tuition, live at home and commute, or find roommates and bring down your rent a little. 

What if you want to live a little and maybe go to the movies? According to natoonline, an average movie ticket in 2017 cost $8.97 but only $1.65 in 1971. My point being that people ages 18-25 are struggling financially because prices have skyrocketed while wages lack to increase proportionally. Our school systems do not prepare us for these kinds of extreme budgeting situations. The solution? Well, mine has been to live at home and eat only 12 powdered donuts and a 12-ounce Coca-Cola a day so I can afford gas. I do not suggest this to anyone else though. Instead, I suggest ignoring the critics and not being afraid to ask for help with finances. It is OK to struggle. We all are.

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