It suddenly occured to me the other day while watching young recent college gaduates protesting their crippling student loans that I did not have any debt when I graduated from college.  You see, I worked my way through school.  What a quaint idea from a bygone age.  But in fact it was very common way back then.  Of course the immedite reply will be, “but school is much more expensive today.” 

So let´s look at the facts.  When I started college in 1958 I had to pay about $500 a year in school “fees” since the University of Maryland did not charge tuition then.  My parents made an agreement with me, they would continue to put a roof over my head and food in my belly and  I would pay all other costs of my college years , the “fees,”  transportation to school which consisted of an old heap that drank more oil than gas, books, fun and games and so on.  All together these costs amounted to maybe $1000 a year.   Small change when compared to costs of college today.  But remember the average income in 1958 was a princely $3500 a year.  Thus my college costs wer about 28% of the averge income. Today´s median income is about $53,000 or about 15 times that of 1958.   That percentage of today´s aveage income would be $15,000. 

If you check you will see that one can go to a large public university as a day student today at under $15,000.  And even less if you go to a community college.   And guess what, many, if not most, students at community colleges are working their way through school.  So the basic numbers demonstrate that one can still work his way through college.  Better yet, one can get a degree online so it is probably comparatively cheaper today to get a degree than way back then.  

How did I do it?   How did I manage to put toegther an income that represented about 28% of the average income at the time?  Well I worked every job that came my way.  The first year was paid by constuction work in the summer at $1.25 an hour and then as a part time grocery clerk at $1.80 an hour during school terms.  I also worked as a mailman at Christmas.  Indeed in my second summer break I held three jobs - day job, night job and weekend job.  At the end of my sophomore year I hit the gold mine.  I got a summer job with the US government as a statistician that paid $4500 a year and since I managed to do three months by starting before school ended and quitting after school had begun I was paid $1200 (extra pay for my earned holidays that I did not use).  Best of all my weekends and nights were free to use for fun and games.  By the time I graduated from college I had 50% of the quarters needed to collect Social Security and only had to work three years more to fully qualify. 

So to those who lament their huge student loans I would say, perhaps you should have considered working your way through school, instead of borrowing your way to a degree.