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Unreasonable expectations: working through school

Many people have the general idea that the ‘average college student’ is in their late teens or early twenties and do not have a household or family to support. In reality, many students who attend UMBC also work part-time, or even full-time to support themselves in addition to the responsibility of their courses.

A 2015 study from Georgetown University analyzed that in 2012, 40 percent of full-time American students aged 16–29 also worked full-time, while 76 percent of full-time students aged  30–54 also held a full-time job (Carnevale et al., 2015).

This is even more disparaging to all the college students who hold the idea that college is designed to be a full-time job. The fairness of this situation is questionable given that time spent working is time taken away from studying. With simple logic, one can conclude that this system is extra beneficial towards students who already come from high socioeconomic status and have parents that support them financially.

According to The Washington Post, students in Denmark receive around $900 US per month from their government to cover living costs incurred while studying for a degree.

Denmark’s system allows students to focus on their actual studies, without having to suffocate from financial burdens. Danielle Caldwell, a senior psychology major at UMBC states, “I definitely feel the stress of trying to make sure I am doing well in my classes as well as making sure I am making enough money to pay my bills. I remember being a cashier at Kohl’s and I would sneak notecards to the registers and try studying in my downtime.”

Danielle’s experience with working while studying is unfortunately not singular. Many students are stretching themselves thin trying to juggle many different courses, extracurricular activities, jobs and other aspects of normal life.

Undergraduate degrees in the United States are now virtually mandatory if a citizen aspires to obtain a job that pays a living wage. Moreover, college degrees are more expensive than they have ever been before. This makes the task of students supporting themselves while in school even more convoluted.

The average cost of attending a public institution including tuition, fees and room and board, adjusted to the current worth of the dollar, was just $3,433 in 1983. Given that UMBC’s cost of attendance in 2016 is $26,966, there is obvious inflation at play.

Graduating from college is already a feat and a grand accomplishment in the scheme of western success. The United States government should follow Denmark’s lead and invest in the future of this country by investing in the future leaders of this country’s education.