Brother, can you spare an hour?

There’s been no amount of downtime to spare lately, so I wanted to do a quick word plop.

Everything has been in preparation for, in plan for, in thought of the big move. And it’s rapidly approaching. My husband and I have been pulling full time schedules, me with the lower end of that spectrum, him with 60+ hours a week. We’re working for scraps-fast food pun intended. And I wanna talk about the mindset behind that last sentence. I didn’t notice it so much my first job, or my anthropology job (which I miss so much) but somewhere along the way, my husband and I started measuring things in hours.

One cup of coffee, a scone and a breakfast sandwich: 1.3 hours
One 24 pack of Dr. Pepper: 1 hour
One textbook: 37.5 hours

Because ultimately, the question isn’t: “Can I afford this?”

It’s: “How many hours of my life is this going to cost me?”

And I think that it’s that rooted thought process that is dangerous. Because your worth suddenly becomes stuck in time (almost literally). It gets warped-money falling by the wayside, the only currency is time. And for a generation that is constantly plagued with accusations of entitlement, impatience and a lack of foresight, this process is, well, humbling.

I’ve worked in food for a little over 3 years, retail for another year plus and then I’ve had academic jobs for 4 years. I have worked the entire time I’ve been in college-a trend which will no doubt continue in law school. However, let me explain how this ideology relates to the bigger picture.

Suppose you have someone who didn’t go to college (and therefore has no college debt), working in a minimum wage job. They can’t afford much-full time on minimum wage will give you roughly $300 a week (before taxes) in Ohio, or $1200. If you live in Columbus (the capital), rent in a SAFE neighborhood is $700-$900. If you’re by yourself, that’s almost your entire paycheck. And that’s supposing 40 hours guaranteed a week (which is HIGHLY unlikely in fast food). Anyway, with your $300 that are left, you must pay utilities, insurance and buy gas. Suddenly, you’re down to your last $50 and you have to buy groceries for an entire month. Oops.

This isn’t a sob story about raising minimum wage (although that would be great), this is the reality of the situation. I have student loans-which I know I will need to pay back. But in exchange for making that crossroads deal, I am able to put a pause ( momentarily) in the question of how many hours I must sacrifice while I am attending classes. This is renewed each summer, when I look for work in the food/retail industry and it rattles me a little further each time. But let’s do a thought exercise.

For any given day, the following are probably true:

-I need to buy gas
-I have at least one apartment bill due
-I need to feed myself and my husband
-I have to put air in our car tires

So let’s pick a day at the middle of the month (because my bills hover around then or the beginning).

Gas: $20
Bill Due (Electric AND Insurance AND Phone): $100+$45+$90
Food: $20
Air for tires: $.50

Total for the day: $275.50

There are 24 hours in a day. Let’s suppose it’s a work day, suppose I have full time and get 8 hours of work that day. That’s $8.15*8=$65.20 for the day of work.

At minimum wage, it would take me 34 hours (not including taxes taken out) to pay for just 3 bills and the extra bits. So let’s look at it a little differently.

Gas: 2.5 hours (and my commute is just 10 minutes, plus I walk)
Bills: 12.3 hours + 5.5 hours + 11 hours
Food: 2.5 hours (it takes longer to afford food than it does to burn the calories off from eating it!)
Air: 4 minutes

I know this post has a lot of math- I get it. I took most of the pressure off you, but as always, feel free to check me.

All I’m saying is, for a generation of “entitled” people, we’ve never been so coerced into selling our souls just to stay alive.

A Day in the Life of…

So normally I try to write about something very near and dear to me, something that isn’t overly political, but is something that I am pretty passionate about. A little while ago, I posted about how I thought it was incredibly wrong to force people to go to college. And today, I want to present the other side. A personal narrative of what it’s like going to college in today’s world. And hopefully, to dispell some college myths. I’ve screen-shotted my proof for numbers, although they are easily available on Google.

I don’t know how many people relate, but it really grinds my gears when I hear “Why can’t you just save up money?” Or “Working through college isn’t that hard.” Or “Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” These sentences may have been true at one point, and that question may be well-intended, but I believe that they are incredibly un-applicable (inapplicable?) to today’s college generation. This will be, as always, just my experience, mi cuenta. 

Classes began yesterday. And if you live north, so did the snow. I woke up around 620, took the dog out, fixed lunch and made sure my husband was up. While he was finishing getting ready, I ran out to get the car scraped. He locked up and we left for class. The roads were slick, the cars were thick and it added some time to our drive. Rush hour in Ohio always does. We made it to school, and work in my case, and began classes. We got back to home about 12 hours later. The wind blew, but I walked over 2 miles yesterday, and will do so all semester, regardless of weather. And my husband’s walk is almost 4 miles a day. Just to get between classes. We’re both taking upper division classes (stuff meant for graduate students-not undergrad) and we’re trudging along.

Ohio State’s tuition is dependent on where you call home. For me, it has always been Ohio, so I get in-state tuition, as does my husband. For just one of us, it costs $20,144 USD just to attend for one year. That doesn’t include gas, rent, food or supplies. So, living in a big city is pretty expensive. If you say $200 in groceries for 1 person per month, plus $700 per person for rent/utilities per month, plus $100 a month for supplies/gas, that’s $1000 a month PER PERSON on living expenses. **NOTE: I am using the second set of numbers as my reference, because I live off campus in an apartment, so I’m filling in my numbers instead. And that supplies number isn’t adequate, so I’ve included the personal amount to fix it.**

So, in total, it is $20,144 + ($1000 x 12) = $32,144 per person just to go to classes for one full year.

  Two we people’s total is $32,144 x 2 = $64,288 for one year of college. And this is a public, state school. I shudder to imagine a private university. And this number doesn’t include emergencies like a broken down car, hospital trips, doctor visits or any other emergency things. If it did, it would look more like $70,000 USD.

So let’s look at the job markets and such. We’ll take a minimum wage job, because mostly the college population has one of those.  I have included my google search for current, factual information.

So, we have $8.10 USD as the minimum wage. So let’s discuss hours. The minimum amount of class time you can have at OSU is 12 credit hours. That, from my understanding means that you will have 12 hours of class per week, or around 3 per class. You can go up to 18 credit hours. So one week has an entire 7 x 24 hours = 168 hours. Suppose you’Re taking the upper limit of credit hours. That is 168-18 right off the bat. So 150 hours of the week is left.

Ohio State recommends that for every 1 hour of class, 3 hours are spent in homework to achieve a passing grade (taken to mean “C”). The picture I have is from the U of Michigan website.

(Notice how if you take 18 Credit Hours, it is recommended that you work less than 20 hours.) So to catch us up, we have 150 hours in a week after classes. Now,  18 x 3 = 54 hours. So, 150-54 is 96 hours in a week left. Let’s say that you sleep 8 hours a night. 8 x 7 =56. So you are down to 40 hours a week left. But what about drive time?

It takes us anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to get to campus, even from where we live, depending on when we leave. So, if we were to leave every day during rush hour (because Ohio is famous for it), it would take an hour both ways. That is 5 x 2 = 10. So if you take that away from the 40 hours you had, you are now down to 30 hours left in the week. Take another 10 from that for dinner/eating each day and you are at 20 hours left for the week.

Suppose you were a scary person and you didn’t ever have any fun what-so-ever and you worked the rest of the 20 hours. You’d have to include the fact that you have to drive there (assuming you don’t get a job on campus while you’re already there. So take an additional 5 hours off of that number for driving to work. You are left with 15 hours to work.

Remember that minimum wage from above? Bring it down here.

$8.10 USD x 15 hours = $121.50 USD before taxes. In my best effort to predict my checks, I use 86% as the amount of the paycheck I will actually get post-taxes. So, if you’re using that too, $121.50 x .86 = $104.49 USD. For the month? That total is $417.96

So. Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

“Why can’t you save money?” Because making $417.96 per month (or $5015.52 a year!) compared to spending $32,144 doesn’t really put much of a dent in my student loans, and to be fair, I use the money I supplement with working a part time job to pay for the emergency stuff (and to apply to grad schools, law schools and register for the entrance exams-which cost $200 a piece).

“Working through college isn’t hard.” Well, as I hope I have illustrated for you, it IS possible to work during college, and I do so. However, I’m not sure I would ever call it easy. I mean, I like being able to work out, grab coffee with my friends and spend time with my husband, but those things take time and make life meaningful so I sacrifice work for them.

“Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” I’m very happy for you. But with today’s numbers, a part time job barely covers food for my husband and I for the month. (And let me remind you that these numbers did not include birthday presents, Christmas presents, lab fees, parking passes ($800 USD a year), fast food, or any “luxuries” that a person may want.) 

This blog post was not meant to be a “Michelle Complains About College Again!” Rant. That was NEVER my intention.

What I want you to see, maybe even empathize with or understand better is that going to college is a big commitment and what may have been true for older generations during their time, their 20s, is no longer true today. And we should stop using antiquated information to make generalizations about today’s 20-somethings.

And to round us out, here are some memes about college which I find funny and insightful.