For college students it's not just tuition that costs more
by Sarah Doty
For UMD sophomore Sina Richert the expense of college today is a reality.
But tuition prices aren’t the only thing causing Richert to expect that she will graduate $40,000-$50,000 in debt. Add her monthly bills of rent, utilities, groceries and gas to the tally and it’s easy to see how it all adds up.
However, this scenario hasn’t always been the case for college students.
“My grandpa and I were just talking [the other day] and he only spent $300 for a whole year of college,�? said UMD sophomore Sina Richert. “That gets you one credit now, maybe not even a credit … It’s depressing talking to grandparents, even my dad, he didn’t pay anything near what we have to pay now.�?
What Richert is referring to is the drastic increase in tuition through the years. At UMD a Minnesota resident for the 2006-2007 school year paid $8,580 for tuition alone. This is more than double the $4,017 students paid ten years ago, and nearly 30 times as much as the $294 students were paying during the 1966-1967 school year.
This seems to be the trend all around, with the cost, during the last five decades, of housing, groceries, movie tickets, gas prices and even minimum wage also increasing.
However, the smallest increase during those decades has been that of minimum wage; which currently is only four times the amount it was in 1967, increasing from $1.40 to $5.85 in 2007.
This might explain the increase in stress for students today, according to associate professor Ken Gilbertson, a 1978 UMD graduate, and the director of the center for environmental education.
“Students are so stressed out because they are fatigued from working so much to pay for school,�? said Gilbertson.
That wasn’t the case when he was a student.
“I remember not having a lot of money, but I don’t remember suffering,�? said Gilbertson. “I don’t ever remember being severely stressed out over paying for school. I don’t have any recollection of the pressures it seems [college kids today] get, and no one was working those crazy, crazy hours.�?
John Brostrom the senior administrative director at UMD’s auxiliary services and a 1970 graduate of UMD agrees.
“Most of my pals could pay for everything with working one job,�? said Brostrom. “[That was working] less than 10 hours a week … with a summer job as well. [We] didn’t make as much [then], but the costs of education hadn’t reached the high rates that they are at today.�?
Junior Kayla Jendro has a different story.
Jendro works two jobs through most of the year at Best Buy and Ridgeview Country Club. During the school year she does cut down her hours, only working about 20-32 per week.
Working two jobs is not uncommon for students her age, but in the late 1970s it was rare.
“Occasionally there would be someone working two jobs and we would say stop being so greedy and chasing the almighty dollar,�? Gilbertson said. "But now it isn’t about greed. It is about survival.�?
Assistant professor Steven Berry, a 1997 UMD graduate, also only worked one job at a time.
“During my first year I worked at Hardee’s down on London Road,�? Berry said. “I worked 20 hours a week; two eight-hour shifts on the weekend and some afternoon shifts during the week.�?
At the time that was normal.
“A lot of friends did the same thing I did,�? he said. “Lots of food service and working in the summer. One job was normal, but I did have one friend that would work two jobs in the summer.�?
Associate professor John Swenson, a 1993 UMD graduate also worked just one job.
“I worked year round as a mechanic or on the shipping docks for minimum wage,�? Swenson said. “I worked 20 hours a week during the school year, working harder on weekends than during the week. Most of my friends worked comparable hours to mine.�?
With that work Swenson didn’t have to worry about loans. He lived at home through college and could get by without loans and just a little bit of help from his parents. His friends had similar situations.
“Friends took out loans, not huge amounts, but some,�? Swenson said.
However, Richert is having a slightly different experience.
“I pay [for college] through scholarships and grants and a few loans,�? she said. But even with the scholarships and grants, it isn’t enough.
“It’s depressing,�? she said.
Brostrom, who has worked at UMD since the year that he graduated, has noticed the change in prices.
“I remember paying $98 per quarter in the fall of ’65,�? said Brostrom. “Now we have bigger bills going to Grandmas for a night of eating and drinking. [Students today] they have to either work a lot or incur huge debt. The cost of tuition has gone up much higher than the cost of inflation.�?
“We have students in class falling asleep,�? he said. “When I ask them what is going on, they say, ‘well I had to work until 2 a.m.’�?
This isn’t the answer according to Swenson.
“Working and studying while in school is contradicting,�? he said. “[College should be] a selfish time in your life, and has to be.�?
“For every hour of class, students are expected to study 3 hours,�? he said. “That is 60 hours of [school] work a week and [students] are fitting in 60 hours of work a week. How do you pull that off? We are asking a whole lot out of your generation.�?
However, it doesn’t end at with only an increase in work. As described earlier the cost for housing is also much greater than before.
Gilbertson remembered the cost of his housing ranging between $100-$120 each month. Now, he sees his nephew who is currently in college thinking that $300-$400 a month is a fair price.
“I think wowza,�? he said. “My house payments aren’t much more than that.�?
According to Gilbertson this isn’t okay. He is worried that today’s generation is teaching itself into the grave with working such hours, and teaching itself not to enjoy life.
“I am curious in 20 years what [today’s students] will look back and see," he said. "I hope [they] can remember what [they] learned and the fun [they] had and not the bags under your eyes from working so much.�?
|1967 1977 1987 1997 2007||$4.35 $7.41 $11.20 $15.25 $21.15|
|1967 1977 1987 1997 2007||$1.40 $2.65 $3.35 $5.15 $5.85|