A Personal Account of Having Difficulties with Paying College Tuition

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When my father was my age he had already worked 8 jobs. When he went to college, he used to trudge uphill in the snow at 3am to go work at the factory, and then, even more amazingly, trudge uphill back at 8am in time to catch the bus to his University. The man was so hardened he trudged uphill both ways. This kind of grit and can-do attitude is not only dead to America, it’s been legally exiled. My dad had his first job when he was 9. Nowadays they have a word for that: child exploitation. You legally cannot get a job until you’re 15, and, in some cases 16. Now that I’m 18, I’ve worked a grand total of 2 jobs. I’m such a wimp I’ve never trudged uphill both ways-not even once.

Am I a lazy bum as my father suggests? Probably. Is it my fault I have no savings and am woefully unprepared to start my college career? Most definitely. But could my dad, were he my age today, do what he did when he was a young man? Absolutely not. The side of my dad’s story that isn’t repeated often is that when he was admitted into school he was in the honors college with a big scholarship. That lasted one semester. It turns out when the hours of sleep you get every night number less than the number of jobs you have, your grades will start to slip. He was able to graduate, but he did lose his scholarship, and so he was on the hook for all that money he lost. But the man was hardened. He was able to pull it off. Fast forward to today, and I’m showing my dad the cost of attendance at his alma mater. He literally doesn’t believe me. He says “Oh well that must be for out of state!” Nope. “Well that’s ridiculous!” Yep. “You’d need a college degree to get a job that would pay enough for you just to go to college!” Exactly.

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You see, it’s 30 years later, and college tuition has much more than doubled across the country from when my dad went to school. If I let my grades slip the way my dad did and lost my scholarship, I would owe more money than I could ever make. And that’s just for the state school. My out-of-state private school feels like a pipedream. Even after scholarships I’m on the hook for over 25 grand a year. Good luck! If I worked all those jobs to “get it done” and “push through” and lost my half-of-tuition scholarship, I would owe as much a year as I’ll be making when I graduate–and that’s with a college degree. The only way for me to afford to do this is to take out loans. Debt is my only salvation. It is now impossible to work your way through college. Sorry, Dad.

But look, not only is it impossible, the game is rigged now so that I’m too soft to do it even if it would work. My dad was responsible for six employees by the time he was my age. Meanwhile, last week at school I had to get a permission slip signed. My dad payed his way through college because he was from a generation that worked their whole lives. As much as I hate to say it, my dad was right, all that yard work did build character, and I can only imagine how much character I would’ve had if I got my start in the working world at age 9. I’m a big fat softie. And you can deride me; you can say “Look! This is what’s wrong with today’s generation!”–and you’d be right. But before we get too eager to pass the blame around let’s think for a second. Who raised our generation? Who passed the child labor laws? Who’s encouraging debt, and not work, as the golden ticket to get through college. Was it my generation or yours? Yeah, you’re always complaining how us Millennials never put down our phones to pick up a shovel. But who bought us those phones? Because you know we don’t have the jobs to afford them!

So yes, I’m going into debt to go to school, because that’s the only way. And no, I can’t simply work harder and pull myself up and just do it. Without debt, I have nothing. Maybe that’s my fault but maybe it’s not. I’m making the best of the world I was given, and so are all of my friends and their friends and all the Millennials around the country. And who gave us the world? You guys.

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A Personal Account of Having Difficulties with Paying College Tuition. (2022, Feb 01). Retrieved from


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