Minimum wage not adequate payment for self-supporting college students

Opinions Columnist | Mass Communication Senior

The current minimum wage rate is insufficient for college students on a tight budget.

San Marcos may have the sixth-lowest cost of living in Texas according to the Greater San Marcos Partnership, but the minimum wage is still inadequate for comfortable living. The United States Census Bureau claims 37 percent of the city’s population is below the poverty level. The median household income from 2008-2012 was $27,360. Although it may seem as though minimum wage may be adequate for such a cheap place to live, this is simply not the truth.  

A large percentage of the San Marcos population is comprised of students. Many students do not have the luxury of relying on their parents for financial support and have to work to put themselves through school. Even after financial aid and student loans, other expenses must be taken into account—food, gas, toiletries, school supplies, housing and money for extracurricular activities are all costs students must cover. A minimum wage of $7.25  is simply not enough to support so many costs, especially if one cannot work full time because of school.

According to a Feb. 27 University Star article, the university plans to demolish all campus apartments except for Bobcat Village. This move will force students currently living in the on-campus apartments to find a different housing option, many of which are significantly more expensive than rent on campus. Students moving off campus may also have to spend more money on gas and parking than they did previously. This only adds to the financial burden students must bear during their time in school.

As someone who lives in the university apartments, works part time and does not receive help from my parents, I have personally struggled with the reality of supporting myself throughout college. A wage of $7.25 an hour barely fills a grocery cart, let alone pays for tuition and rent. If I want to pay all of my bills and buy enough food to keep me satisfied for the week, I will have no money left by Thursday. If I have a medical emergency, I am immediately in debt, and buying school supplies breaks the bank. Having such a tight budget causes me a lot of stress at a time in my life when I am already worried about my future and grades.

Being paid more would not rid me of all anxieties, but it would at least relieve the enormous financial burden I must carry on my shoulders daily. Schoolwork should always be a priority, but it is difficult to care about classwork when financial worries overtake my daily life. It is difficult to concentrate in class when I am constantly daydreaming about all the steaks and sushi I cannot eat to satisfy my grumbling stomach. I know that other students share these same burdens and many of them have even dropped out because they needed to work more.

This is not a choice that students should have to make. Financial stability should be a possibility for minimum wage workers, even without parental contributions. Raising the minimum wage will help ease the strain on those with meager budgets, turning college back into a fun, educational experience rather than a constant struggle to keep one’s head above water.