Twenty hours is simply not enough

MONICA PAYNE; Opinion Writer: paynemk@plu.edu

As college students, the pressure is put on us to be able to do it all: get into school, go to class, study, be social, do extracurricular activities, volunteer, stay in touch with your family and, of course, hold down a job. For those who live off campus, the job market is an ocean of possibilities spanning as far as you are willing to go, but for those who reside within the Lute dome, it’s better not to go past Pacific Avenue and Garfield. That being said, PLU does offer a plethora of occupational opportunities, but there’s a catch. According to the financial aid office, you are limited to 20 hours a week at most. That, to me, is not going to support you.

On-campus life provides a home, basic utilities and dinner every night with some extra money for other food during the semester, but that’s really it. It does not provide textbooks, clothes, dishes, school supplies, most toiletries (aside from the condoms found in residence hall bathrooms) and many other necessities for everyday life and use. Some of this list you are expected to bring with you from home so you don’t start out your school year with an empty void of a room, but there are some things that do need replacing after some time or are one-use items. And now that you’re on your own you have to find a way to afford these things. There are times when 20 hours is simply not going to be enough.

I know it’s not everyone’s favorite activity in the world, but let’s do some math shall we? PLU student employees are paid once a month, resulting in four weeks of working. Let’s just assume that you are a particular student employee and, for four weeks straight, you have met the limit of 20 hours per week exactly. This would result in 80 hours worked for that month. Not all, but a majority of on-campus positions are minimum wage jobs. Let’s also assume you have one of those and make $9.47 an hour. Multiply $9.47 by 80 and you have earned $757.60. However, that is before taxes. Using the site Dinkytown.net I was able to calculate exactly what would be on your paycheck: $642.63. Also keep in mind that, in my experience as a part-time worker, I have discovered that employers will perhaps schedule you to never have a chance at meeting the 20-hour limit so as to save labor, but I recognize that all employers are different.

At first $642.63 may seem like you’re rolling in the green, but then you start shopping. First you need your books for class, we’ll round up to $200 to make it simple. Next is supplies, and let’s face it, you’re probably going to the Garfield book store because Walgreens is rather limited in its selection and the nearest Walmart is either in Spanaway or Puyallup. And we all know how much the bookstore charges… take away another $150. Let’s remove another $50 for household items like toiletries. Perhaps you need some spare dining dollars in case you ran out, to make it easy I’ll just knock off $100. Add it all up and take it away and you have $142.63 left in your bank account. This is not including vehicle gas and care, clothes, school payments, potential graduation fees, technology repair/replacement and so on… and all of these must come before any sort of spontaneous spending. At the rate you’re going you won’t even get there.

What is all this math supposed to mean? It means that though it is not portrayed on the surface, even if you live in a dorm you still need a reliable source of income. You are a student, but you are an adult as well and as such you are required to be able to provide for yourself. PLU should not be limiting the income of the students that really need it or need to save it in case of emergency.

PLU does have a decent reason for the limit though. According to www.edvisors.com “every $10,000 increase in student income will cause up to a $5,000 decrease need-based financial aid.” It is alarming to imagine your financial aid going down, but reasons such as this is why scholarships exist to be able to pull you back up. If anyone is willing to work full-time and simultaneously go to school, they deserve some scholarships.

All in all, PLU may believe that they are ultimately helping their student body by limiting their labor, but perhaps they forget the struggles of a student trying to live off of minimum wage while paving the vocational road in front of them. Twenty hours a week is nice, but for many students, it is just another burden to bare. Perhaps our university will realize that some day.

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