Many moons ago, some asshole with a blog noted that the cost of college tuition, when compared to the minimum wage, has skyrocketed:
The median household income in 1960 was $5620… Housing was cheaper, thanks to suburban settlement policies. Scholarships, especially the GI Bill, could cover most or all of these costs. Importantly, the minimum wage was $1.00 and rose to $1.15 in 1961. That’s key: if we rescale the cost of college in terms of minimum wage hours, we notice something critical. Someone who worked after school and during the summer in high school, and, once in college, during the summer and maybe a few hours a week could pay for college–at least a state school–without incurring debt. With a median household income of $5620 (and half made more than this), many families could also help out too.
In terms of ‘minimum wage hours’, there’s no way a full-time worker could cover an in-state tuition in 2010, never mind in 2022, Year of Our Gritty.
Which brings us to this excellent op-ed about the life-altering effects of receiving a $4,000 Pell Grant (boldface mine):
But if I put my ego aside, I know that’s not the case. I entered college in 2004. I attended Brigham Young University, a private college heavily subsidized by the Mormon Church. Tuition was $1,640 a semester. This was before the housing crisis, when it was possible to find a shared room in a shabby apartment for just $190 a month. What these numbers meant, in real terms, was that it was possible for me to work my way through college.
I could make enough to cover tuition by bagging groceries for $5.35 an hour during the summers. Back then, the nearly $3,000 I needed for two semesters seemed staggering, and it necessitated me saying the words “Paper or plastic?” an unthinkable number of times. But it was possible. Without family money, without cultural advantages. It was a thing that could be done, if only just, if you really wanted it.
For kids today from poorer backgrounds, the path I took through education no longer exists… A 2019 report by the Institute for Higher Education Policy tells us that at some state flagship schools (not fancy private schools, just regular four-year public universities), low-income students are asked to cover some $80,000 beyond what they can afford. Even at B.Y.U., one of the most affordable four-year colleges in the country, tuition has nearly doubled since I graduated.
Of course, the party that potentially might care about this has a geriatric leadership that, on the whole, simply can’t comprehend this.
There has been a lot of premature talk about returning to normal, but normal wasn’t good for a lot of people.