From an anonymous comment left at Confessions of a Community College Dean:
Assumption 1: Supposing that the total cost of school in 1990 was about $3000 (tuition, fees, and books – and assuming you didn’t live on campus and somehow you had magically “free” transportation to and from school) and today, it is about $11,000 (cost of tuition + fees + modest textbook allowance at my bargain state school, still supposing free transportation and living at home).
Assumption 2: In 1990, minimum wage in my state was $3.35/hr. Today it is $7.40/hr.
Given the above, if you worked 50 weeks/year, then in 1990 you would have needed to work about 18 hours a week to pay for school. Today you would need to work about 30 hours a week to do the same. That’s pre-tax, so in reality you need to work more than that.
Do your students who work nearly full time, and who take a full load of classes typically do well in your classes? That’s not my experience. They’re exhausted, unable to focus on learning, and often they are just scraping by.
Scholarships are still “out there” and yes, every dollar helps. But many of the scholarships offered by community organizations – the ones that are relatively accessible to most normal kids – haven’t kept up with the inflated cost of college. In 1990 a $500 scholarship would have covered 16.7% of the cost of a year of college. Today it would cover 4.5%.
The college finance world is a different place today.