Minimum wage jobs cannot cover college tuition costs

Kate Dannenmaier

Although 30 years ago college students may have paid their tuition by working part time, summer or minimum wage jobs, today it’s impossible, according to economics professor Daniel Hamermesh.

Hamermesh said in addition to a drop in government assistance for higher education, the cost of labor is also a factor in the rising cost of tuition. Hamermesh said minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, has not risen to catch up.

“Education is a very labor-intensive industry — it’s hard to substitute machinery for professors or teachers,” Hamermesh said. “That means that, as the cost of labor has risen, the costs have to get passed on in the price — in tuition.”

Linda Morgan, student employment supervisor at Hire a Longhorn Job Bank, said the amount earned from working roughly 30 hours per week at a minimum wage job would fall short of the amount needed to pay the tuition bill of a Texas resident enrolled in 12 credit hours.

“For many years, we have known that about 75 percent of students work while pursuing their degree,” Morgan said. “What is less certain is whether they are able to pay all their college expenses through work alone.”

Undeclared freshman Marlene Macias said she works as a cashier at Kin’s Market and at Whataburger to pay for what financial aid doesn’t already cover: food, living expenses, gas and spending money.

“I have an older sister who is a junior at UT, a 14-year-old brother and a 5-year-old brother,” Macias said. “My parents cannot afford to support two kids in college, so my sister and I both got jobs to pay for what financial aid can’t help us with.

Radio-television-film freshman Chanelle Gibson said she works as a student assistant at Kinsolving Dining Hall to help pay for out-of-state tuition. According to Gibson, she hasn’t been able to help pay significantly for college through her job.

“It is slowly adding up, though, and working full time this summer at Sonic will also help me start moving toward actually being able to make a dent in my tuition,” Gibson said.

Macias said she feels anxiety about debt after college all the time, but she said having a UT diploma will pay off in the long run.

“Even with two jobs and financial aid, there is no way I will leave debt free,” Macias said.

Gibson, whose parents refused to allow her to take out student loans — insisting on paying for her education themselves — said she doesn’t want to feel like a financial burden on her family.

“I have anxieties about my parents paying for my college,” Gibson said. “When I was deciding where to go, they basically said to me, ‘You just pick your dream school and we will find a way to pay for you to go there.’”