It’s the beginning of year number four for me at the University of Minnesota, and the work-life balance has not gotten any easier. As a senior working two campus jobs averaging 30 hours per week, I struggle to stay afloat as I enter my hardest semester yet.
Student debt in Minnesota has unsurprisingly hit an average of about $30,000. Over the summer, University President Eric Kaler responded to this, saying, “You can spend a lot more than that for a new car if you want to.”
I’m not sure how the two are related, but I can tell you that even thinking about buying a car feels like a distant reality for the two-thirds of students who will graduate with debt.
I have pieced together small scholarships, federal and private loans and multiple jobs in order to maintain my existence on campus. The financial implications of college alone have created a high-risk, high-stress and low-health situation for me. Being constantly stressed and overworked has grown into perpetual exhaustion and regularly bouncing from one cold to the next.
The physical, emotional and, of course, financial price students pay for college is out of control. Between tuition, housing, books and student fees, the cost of college is unmanageable, and I am lucky to regularly afford rent.
There is a false sense of choice in all of this. People have told me that I chose to take out the loans, chose to go into debt and chose to work so many hours — but what other options exist?
By next spring, I will have around $60,000 of debt, but what will I be leaving school with beyond that? A degree, yes, but what about relationships or communities on campus?
Rising tuition also affects other people on campus like faculty members — how great of a “place of higher learning” can a campus be when the financial stress alone is so high for so many people here?
It’s hard to participate in campus and community life when you spend more time working than you spend in class.
This is why, despite my schedule, I organize with student workers on campus. We as young people deserve better. Our campus community deserves better. We can’t expect better if we won’t fight for it.