college-debtA recent study has shown that modern students have to work as much as six times longer to pay for college than thirty years ago. Given that the number of college students who work minimum wage jobs is growing, many students aren’t able to avoid accumulating debt. Despite what your grandfather says, it’s virtually impossible to just ‘work through college’ without family or other financial support.

What many believe has happened is that the goal posts have shifted. “Working your way through college” used to mean that you were working and earning enough money to pay for college so that you didn’t have to take on college debt. Today, one tells people that they’re “working my way through college,” but it essentially means that they’re working to prevent their loans from being totally outrageous and they can avoid living in squalor.

It’s no surprise that the cost of tuition is rising, yet somehow the idea that people can pay as they go still persists. That American ideology states that if you work hard and believe in yourself, you’ll graduate with many job offers and zero debt.

Really the only way you can pay for school as you go is to either live with your parents to avoid paying rent (but also severely limiting your school options) or only go to school part time. Many people are already doing that with the community college system, but that only covers your first two years, and for most people an Associate degree is almost worthless except as a stepping-stone to a Bachelor’s.