Columns / Discourse / February 7, 2018

How can we spend when we do no get paid?

No matter which institution you attend, college will be expensive. Even with substantial financial aid and many different scholarships, the cost of college follows you late into your adult life. It is a burden we pay to get a higher education, but why does the effort to pay off the debt have to be so excruciating? Having a job during the semester and during school breaks is a necessity for many, but the wages we earn from intense jobs are not sufficient for our accumulating student loans. Why do jobs for young adults pay less than we deserve in jobs that are so important?

Ever since I was little I have attended a summer camp where my mother was employed. It was my dream to one day join the camp staff as a cabin counselor and to continue to have the fun-filled summers I had as a young girl. When the time finally came to apply for a working position, I was able to spend two summers as a paid employee. I loved every second of it, but it was nothing like I expected as a child. As a counselor, I was working 24 hours a day for 14 days and was responsible for hundreds of kids’ safety and wellbeing. Yet when I received my first paycheck, I was rewarded with minimum wage for roughly eight hours a day.

Of course the real reward in this situation is giving the campers the summer of their lives, but when I would think of my incoming years at college, I forgot all about the fun I had as a counselor and focused on the lack of money I had received. My summers at camp have come to a halt in order to pay for my education and it breaks my heart.

Why does such an intensive position pay so little for the responsibility and dedication that it requires? There are counselors at every station at the camp making sure the children stay safe and secure, as well as lifeguards at every pier making sure that no one is drowning in the lake. An unreliable counselor creates a dangerous environment, which is why people in these positions deserve a larger reward for their hard work. Especially since most employees are college students anticipating student loan debt after graduation.

The unfair wages only continue as we enter college. When a student is granted work study positions, they are only granted (at most) ten hours a week receiving minimum wage. This small amount is barely enough to cover book expenses throughout the year, let alone making a dent on the other fees and dues.

Students often seek a job on campus and off to have a stable income to help pay the enormous tuition rate each term. It begins to interfere with school work and the “college experience” when students are constantly stuck in offices and in the kitchen. Yet it is the price we pay.

If work study positions paid more to the hard-working student, the stress of money-making would be alleviated. Yet just like in summer camp positions, the wages do not match the time and effort put into the job. College students deserve to work in leadership positions like summer camps without having the stress of money constantly hanging over their heads.

After summer breaks full of team building and taking care of children, we should be able to go back to school and work an adequate amount with better pay in the end.

We are suffering from student debt and there is not much we can do to solve the issue when we are having to jump from job to job between breaks. College students work too hard to be paid so little and receive such a large cloud of debt after graduation.

 

Sadie Cheney

Tags:  minimum wage student debt summer jobs

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