College Students – You’ve Been Lied To

College Students – You’ve Been Lied To

We are constantly hearing all the “woe is me” about our colleges and the cost to attend! Some of those problems are our own doing, but college is still affordable!

My Story

I wanted to go to college for as far back as I can remember. My mom didn’t have any money saved up for me for college, but she did tell me I could live at home for free as long as I wanted while going to college.

I made the same mistakes many young people make…

  • I bought a NEW car (it was a Ford Escort, mind you, but it was still more than I needed)
  • Insurance was expensive on my NEW car
  • I felt like I was working just to pay for things needed for my NEW car (do you see a theme here)

I was taking one or two college classes and working full time at a construction job. It was ok, but I hated the work. I arrived home each night tired and worn out, ready to eat dinner, watch tv, go to bed and do it again the next day. It looked to me like it would take forever to finish school at that rate, so I talked to a recruiter and joined the Army.

You can join the military and in exchange for three years of your life, you’ll receive about 72k in education benefits, plus you should be able to complete 2 years of college in a 4 year enlistment.

I started attending college while on active duty. I had to pay about 10% of the cost, the rest was covered by the military. I only had a few choices of colleges, it took me ten years, but I completed my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration!

You might be surprised at how many different types of jobs there are in the military. It’s not all about shooting weapons and war. I was in the band. You can be a cook, an admin assistant, work with finance, work in the chapel, shoot people, + a myriad of other options.

The Reality

I’m going to break down some real costs for my area (Colorado Springs)

Example #1: 18 year old student living at home with parents

Tuition at Pikes Peak Community College 3736

Books and Other Fees (you can probably bring this down buying used) 1800

TOTAL 5536

If this student works 40 hours a week at a minimum wage of $7.25/hour, he will earn approximately $15,000, more than enough to pay for college and have plenty to get around, plus some extra for fun.

Example #2: 18 year old student living on his own 

Tuition at Pikes Peak Community College 3736

Books and Other Fees (you can probably bring this down by going used) 1800

Renting a room in someone’s basement 6000

Food (does not include Starbucks or going out to eat; lots of ramen and mac and cheese)

3600

TOTAL 15136

If this student works 40 hours a week at a minimum wage of $7.25/hour, he will earn approximately $15,000. He will need to live somewhere close to the college and won’t have any extra money. However, if he took another part time job the weeks he didn’t have school – working just ten more hours per week – he could make 7.25/hour x 10 hours per week x 16 weeks = $1160. This could help pay for a couple of extra items.

But, But, But

  • This doesn’t sound like fun.
    • It’s not, it’s work, but it’s a sacrifice you make over a short period of time.
  • How can he work 40 hours AND do all his assignments.
    • The average college student spends upwards of 30 hours per week on media, social and otherwise.
    • Most wage earners actually stay at minimum wage only a short time. I earned minimum wage from the age of 14-17 – since then not. Once you prove to your employer that you are worth what she is paying you, you will earn substantially more than minimum wage.

Let’s take a look at a state college

In the state of Colorado, state colleges are required to take your transfer credits from community colleges when you transfer into their school.

Tuition at UNC Greeley 10,000

Room and Board 10,000

TOTAL 20,000

Now you have several options regarding work…

  • Continue working 40 hours/week and earning 15k/year; you accrue about 5k a year in debt, times two years. Not much debt at all. Work 60 hours a week during the summer to reduce that amount even more.
  • Don’t work at all during school, but work 60 hours per week during school breaks. Let’s also assume that since you now have your associate’s degree, you can now earn $10/hour. Your earnings would be $9,600/year. Let’s round that to $10k, so over two years you would need to borrow just 20K for your education. Once again very affordable.

The problem I see is that many students do not want to make the sacrifice needed to go to college. Because the loans are so easy to get and insured by the government, many students don’t work, yet continue to finance their lattes and vacations with borrowed money. Some choose to go to more expensive colleges. Some choose to major in Polka Music History and then wonder why they can’t get a job.

I wanted to get a master’s degree for a long time. I researched and looked into many possibilities. The 50k cost of most of many of them simply was not worth it to me. However, I finally found a small college in southwestern Oklahoma that gave me in-state tuition if I played in the summer band. I attended in the summers of 2010, 2011 and 2012. My total cost for a master’s degree was $9,000, which included room and board for the half of each week I stayed in Oklahoma. That’s $9k total, not per year! Was it a sacrifice to have to drive each week? Yes. I could have stayed but I wanted to be home with my family. If you add the cost of driving, it would add about $3k to the total price. $12k – not bad for a master’s degree, and it immediately boosted my income about 5k per year as a teacher. There were options available in which I could have finished a master’s degree in 1-1 ½ years. Some cost 80-90k. If I had borrowed money to go to one of those schools, I would still owe the debt.

College is affordable. Don’t let the lies sink in.
*** James is a middle school teacher at a Title 1 school in Colorado Springs. He grew up in Title 1 schools before they were called that. Part of his growing up years was spent homeless – at least by today’s definition (we bumped around from family to family sleeping where we could; when mom was able to get her own apartment, we did not have electricity) – and on welfare. He is a strong believer in life-long learning. Sometimes that learning comes from a formal education, but mostly it comes from reading. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net.