College, Minimum Wage and Poverty: A Love Story

College is a time for learning. A time for growing. A time for crunching numbers and making that loaf of bread last for the rest of the week.

Welcome to college in the 21st century, where it is almost as hard as your most difficult class to stay afloat financially.

Yes, the minimum wage is shit. And yes, we have a reason to complain.

We are not asking for handouts. That would be counter-intuitive. College is supposed to teach us vital lessons. These lessons include rolling passed-out friends over on their sides and balancing finances.

I guess I am crazy in thinking education is the most important part of our lives, though.

Let’s look at some numbers. In the year 1980 a Private Nonprofit Four-Year College cost about $10,438. While here in 2015 that price has increased, to the now average cost of $32,405 (according to College Board).

Let’s do some math. We find the percentage change between $10,438 and $32,405 to be approximated at 210.45 percent.

Let’s find the other side of this story. We have jobs, not great jobs most of the time, but jobs nonetheless. Minimum wage. It smells of shoddy business owners, terrible working conditions and even worst turnover rates.

So let’s again compare 1980 and 2015. So in 1980 the minimum wage was $3.10 (according to the US Department of Labor).

Now more recently (2015) the minimum wage is $7.25. Using the same math that got us the percentage change, we can find that the minimum wage has increased by 133.87 percent.

So here is the kicker. If we were to apply the increase in cost of college to the minimum wage it would then be around $9.62.

We are easily working harder, for less percentage of pay, for more college debt and less available time for studying.

Now the important thing to remember here is that this is ignoring states with higher minimum wages (Washington, California, and Washington D.C.), and of course we are ignoring taxes. After tax, minimum wages around Fargo is around $5.

That is a lot of numbers, math and ranting. What does this mean; why should you care?

We should care because this is our future.

We should care because we have to choose between being employed, or choosing poverty and focusing solely on school.

For too long we have allowed the minimum wage to stagnate. The national minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009.

We have allowed people to sling insults at others, without looking at the numbers. We, the people who are working minimum wage jobs, have expenses. For me, the expense is trying to get a better education.

America is not the first in education. We are slipping, and I think one aspect we need to change is how we treat the up-and-coming people of this nation.

You have a right to have as much time as you need for school. You are paying for it literally with your life (i.e. debt). Yes we all need to learn lessons, and that is fine. We are adults, we can handle some stress, but constant fear of going below $0 is not fair.

I hope that things will change. I hope that future generations look back at this time and wonder how we did it. We will overcome I hope, and maybe we will someday payback our debt to society back.

Or maybe we will become more accustom to moving back in with our parents after college, and maybe we will be complacent with the minimum wage. The choice is ultimately ours.

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