Pappy Worked His Way Through College; Jr. is Boned

We’ve heard it countless times from conservatives, congressan and conservative congressman… My dad (the speaker) was poor, but he worked his way through college, and “here I am! A self-made success!” Yeah, those days are gone.

An aspiring poor simply cannot pay their way through college, and here’s the math, in case you doubt reality.

Tuition (plus books) for in-state students at:

UC Berkeley = $14,090
Univeristy of Washington = $13,603
Arizona State = $11,390
Minnesota State University = $13,620

That means a four-year degree would cost, just for books and tuition, $45,560 to $56,360. Sounds high, doesn’t it? When I applied to the University of Washington in 1992, a four year degree would have cost just $4,704. In Washington, minimum wage at the time was $4.90, and the entry level job I had at 16 paid $6 even, meaning you could work 20-hrs a week to cover tuition or a hair over 16-hrs in my case. Not so anymore.

So let’s break it down by year. How many hours would a student have to work at minimum wage just to cover their books and tuition, the cost of living being completely secondary and irrelevant.

UC Berkeley – Minimum wage in California is $8, which means a student would have to work 34 hours per week, every single week of the year, with no vacation or sick time, just to cover tuition and books, with literally not a penny left for rent, food, clothes or henna tatoos.

University of Washington – In Seattle, students would have to work 28.5 hours just to cover books and tuition, which would be great, assuming they could actually find full time work, which based on market conditions, they simply cannot.

Arizona State – Here you’d only have to work about 28-hours a week to cover books and tuition. No matter, it’s a desert, so you can sleep in the tundra and survive off of cactus fronds and toad leafs. Sure, those things don’t exist, but neither does an affordable eduction in the very wasteland of America’s farming, intellectual and innovation desert.

University of Minnesota – This one is especially fun. Minnesota’s minimum wage, despite a federal mandate, is still $5.25, which means a student would have to work 50-hours a week, before taxes, just to cover tuition. This doesn’t even include books, not to mention anything about paying for rent, food and utilities.


Even assuming you could find a family member to live with and eat out of dumpsters, you still couldn’t pay your own way through college, leaving only two options. Saddle yourself with debts our legislators never even remotely had themselves, or simply… give up on college.

My father, mother and sister all put themselves though college, and they were proud as hell when they did it. When I enrolled in college in 1992, tuition was $392 a quarter, but by the time I left less than four years later, it ballooned to $1,180, and today, that same education is about $4,000 per quarter.

We’re not motivating our kids to learn, we’re finding every reason we can to make certain they don’t. We’re passing the wealthy few through without question, saddling the vast middle majority with debts they’ll spend years struggling against, and making damn sure the lower third of society keeps making our value hamburgers, and that’s ri-god-damn-diculous.

Without class mobility, there’s no hope for America. In the past 70 years, that’s what’s made us great is our ability to escape our class through honest hard work. High tuitions have stolen that hope from the youth of today, and you can bet your ass it’s going to be our downfall in 20 years when we’re a literal Idiocracy and all the innovation takes place in places like China and India where they actually invest in their kids and their future.

Graph courtesy of Mother Jones Magazine, from the article entitled "The Student Loan Debt Crisis in 9 Charts," published 6/5/2013.
Chart courtesy of Mother Jones Magazine, from the article entitled “The Student Loan Debt Crisis in 9 Charts,” published 6/5/2013. (Data source – Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

One comment on “Pappy Worked His Way Through College; Jr. is Boned

  1. Right on!
    Thanks for putting in the comparative statistics.
    Go take a good look at the kids on campus and how they act, then imagine them being our leaders in the years to come. Bush the second was not a fluke.
    This also explains the big bias against people without the big education- The smarties have become the new elite and they want to keep it that way.

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