A large number of students work part-time minimum-wage jobs in order to support themselves through the college years. Many also have the idea that if they can work hard enough, minimum wage can put them through college without the need for federal loans.
Unfortunately, that might not be the case.
I have worked a job since I was 16 years old, many of them minimum wage. In the job I currently hold, I earn less than a dollar above minimum wage, but I still have to take out student loans in order to pay for rent and other expenses that my scholarships do not cover.
I currently owe over $18,000 in loans, but still I work in order to pay for things that amount does not cover like food or gas. Loans were never something that I took lightly, but looking back now, I wish that I could have had a better opportunity to keep myself out of them for as long as possible.
According to Alabama Possible, Alabama is the seventh poorest state in the nation, and Pike County falls within the 16 counties that have the highest poverty level, at 26.7 percent.
In 2014, the federal minimum wage was $7.25 per hour and the poverty threshold for a single person of Alabama was $11,670.
In 2014, the cost of attendance for Troy University was $21,833. Note that this is only the cost of attendance, not the cost of living. The figure includes transportation and housing plus an allowance for personal expenses, but tuition alone is just a couple of thousand dollars below the poverty level.
A single student has to work a minimum wage job for approximately 32 hours a week, every week for a year, just to break the poverty level in Alabama. That is $10,163 less than the total amount needed to pay for one year of college.
Minimum wage is falling behind every year as the costs of living rise all around. Students live with the stereotype of eating instant noodles because it’s a reality.
Currently, minimum wage can barely afford to push a full-time worker with a family over the poverty level. Minimum wage is failing students, forcing more to look to loans in order to pay for college.
Abigail Gibbs, a senior social work major from Mobile, agreed that minimum wage is not enough for a student to make satisfactory strides towards achieving financial success.
Gibbs worked three minimum wage jobs in 2013 to support herself. However, she said that even with three jobs, it was not enough to provide for herself.
“I don’t know how I worked three jobs,” Gibbs said. “I had a job for morning, afternoon and night, with classes in between.
“I’d go home too exhausted to do homework, and almost lost my scholarship because of it, but I managed find a way to bring my grades up enough to keep it.”
Gibbs also said that no matter how hard she tried, she was not able to save money while working three jobs.
“I was not getting enough hours at any of them to get ahead,” Gibbs said. “I think they are not giving you enough money to save because they want to keep you in the minimum-wage cycle.”
Minimum wage is failing this generation of students. Without competitive wages across the nation, more and more people will fall into the pit of poverty. Many of us are already there.