Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Foxx and Student Debt

"I went through school, I worked my way through, it took me seven years, I never borrowed a dime of money. He borrowed a little bit because we both were totally on our own when we went to college, totally. [...] I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that. We live in an opportunity society and people are forgetting that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
-Virginia Foxx

For me numbers speak pretty loud, so I decided to do a quick breadown. I'm looking at a student who has to pay for school themselves. These numbers were taken from the PSU (Portland State University) website for IN STATE students:

Tuition: $6,729

Books: $2,028

Transportation: $990

Additional expenses: $2,250


Total: $11,997


Let’s also assume you manage to find a ridiculously cheap Portland apartment with a roommate and manage to get your Rent and Utilities at $500 a month (no small feat).

You also decide to live on a tight budget and manage to only spend $180 a month on food and every other life expense (this is assuming you have a cheap phone and no car, and no major medical anythings').

All Living Expenses in a year: $8,160


Total Yearly Expenses: $20,157


You are also lucky in the job market and manage to find a job where you make a dollar more than minimum wage an hour, and it also gives you 40 hours a week and is flexible enough to work around your school schedule.

Minimum Wage: $9.50/hr

40hrs a week


Yearly income: $18,240

So, even working full time in an above minimum wage job, while living on as little possible, you would still be going into debt as a full time student. In the 4 years that it would take you to graduate you would take on $7,668 in debt.

… but wait what if you are an OUT OF STATE student?

Your annual tuition costs jump from $11,997 to $22,408

All Living Expenses in a year: $8,160


Total Yearly Expenses as an out of state student: $30,568


Yearly income: $18,240

Total debt after a 4 year degree: $49,312

YES $49,312 of debt DESPITE working 40 hours a week while being a full time student in school.

I’m not saying it isn’t possible to graduate debt free, many people do manage to work through school. But this isn’t like when Foxx went to school. Living costs and school costs have skyrocket. And it is much harder to find even a minimum wage job. Because all those students who have graduated with degrees and can’t find work in their field are working the best of the low paying jobs they can find.

Also, people who say “just work a job while you’re in school” aren’t looking at what the current realities of the situation are. I knew of multiple majors which said if you are working a job, don’t apply. You will not be able to juggle both, we will not accept you. Seriously. I was in an art degree and there were many weeks that just between homework and classes combined I was doing 65 hours of work minimum.

Adding in the extra time of working takes away from the time you can focus on your school work. Some people manage to successfully juggle both, with much coffee and little sleep, but many people see their grades suffer at least a little because when you are working so much between school and a job something has to give.

I think when you know how competitive your field is and you know you are already spending $12,000 a year (or more) just on your education, you begin to think: Yes I will take on more debt, not working a job while I’m in school, but the extra time I invest in my school work will help give me the educational edge over the other applicants I will be competing against once I graduate. It will also give me the flexibility to work an unpaid (and yes most of them are) internship in my field while going to school.

/End Rant

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