Minimum wage creates cycle of debt

The average annual cost of tuition for an in-state student at ASU is $19,000, while an out-of-state student is forced to pay $33,000 each year. With that number growing large each year, the number of students in debt continues to skyrocket. More than half of of all students who graduate from a state school in Arizona will leave college with some form of debt; the average sitting just above $22,000. While some of the blame sits squarely on the shoulders of college administrators, most of it should be put on those who enforce and adjust minimum wage.

The national minimum wage is set at $7.25. Minimum wage in Arizona is higher at $8.05. These two numbers perfectly demonstrate the disconnect between legislation and reality. Those who set and adjust the minimum wage are only planning according to the ideal scenario of a person working the full 40-hour work week.

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The average college student is strapped with a full 15-credit schedule, extracurriculars and homework. With a limited job market available to them, college student work availability is dramatically slashed.

According to one study, just one in 10 college students is able to maintain a 35-hour work week. While this information may not seem relevant to students receiving above minimum wage, it is important to remember that half of all people being paid minimum wage are in the college demographic. As troubling as this information is, when coupled with the growing cost of living in Arizona it becomes damning to anyone unable to maintain full-time work schedule.

In order to get an even better look at the average Arizona college student, we must also take a look at where the majority are attending school. According to Forbes, Phoenix is the 8th fastest growing city in the U.S. To keep up with this rapid growth, the cost of living has ballooned as well. The fact that Phoenix cannot provide enough jobs for the growing population is only exasperating the problem.

Arizona's unemployment rate is 6.5 percent, while the national unemployment rate is 5.6 percent. Arizona's job growth rate also falls well below the national average. All of this adds up to a lot of college students struggling to find jobs while in school and upon graduation.

While steps toward reducing tuition and growing the job market must be taken, perhaps the first fix should be adjusting the minimum wage. It can be embarrassing or difficult to ask for help or handouts while working a minimum wage job — no one should feel forced to do so based on their salary. However, with such a low pay rate and high cost of living, it is almost impossible to support oneself with the current minimum wage.

While politicians and older generations continue to suggest getting a job to pay the way through school, perhaps they should ensure that those working receive the money they rightly deserve. While this will not fix all the problems students face, it will certainly help alleviate some of the financial burdens they face post-graduation.

 

Reach the columnist at Alec.Grafil@asu.edu or follow @AlecGrafil on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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