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Student Debt: Living Off Ramen Noodles For Four Years Is Not A Viable Option

Source: News & Observer

Anyone who attended college after the consolidation of North Carolina’s University system 50 years ago should clearly be able to see the difference between the cost of paying for higher education then and today. 

According to the News & Observer, the cost of tuition and fees for college 50 years ago was less than $500, compared to $7,000 – $9,000 today. Adjusted for inflation, this would amount to about $1,000 today. Accepting this overcharge blindly means ignoring the pain and burden it puts on a whole generation who only wants to learn and better their lives. 

News & Observer opinion writer Sara Pequeno wrote that many today have been calling out the supposed “handout” from the Biden administration, arguing that borrowers should just repay their loans the same as previous generations have, completely ignoring the fact that 50 years ago, people could pay for their education with a minimum wage job. 

Back then, the minimum wage in NC was $1.45, and the yearly cost of going to UNC-Chapel Hill was $225 – $422 adding fees. In order for students to afford this, they would have to work a minimum wage job for about seven weeks, or about 291 hours without factoring in taxes, which could have been done during less than a summer break.

Today, the story is different, according to the News & Observer. A student needs to work 1,207 hours of a minimum wage job to pay $8,751.46 of tuition and fees at UNC-Chapel Hill without taking into account taxes. This represents more than 30 weeks of full-time work, which is over two summer breaks. It is very similar for NC State University at 1,230 hours or about 31 weeks at a full-time, minimum wage job to pay $8,918.25. At Appalachian State University, you would have to work more than 1,005 hours or about 21 weeks in a full-time job at minimum wage without counting taxes.

And that’s all without factoring in the cost of living today in NC, the gas prices, the rent, the food, or having a beer with your friends without going bankrupt. 

Living off ramen noodles for four years is not a viable option. If they want to afford to pay for the outrageous costs of textbooks, transportation, tuition, fees, and rent, students today must take on multiple jobs that don’t leave them the necessary time to dedicate to their studies, let alone having a social life. This confirms what many students claim today: “It is no longer what it used to be,” and paying your way to higher education only means accumulating debt in hopes to find a decent job that will allow you to pay it off someday. 

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