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Chart: It's impossible to afford college with a minimum wage job

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

It's a lot harder to pay for college now than it used to be. A new chart from the website Attn shows just how much harder. Until around 1980, you could pay the average college tuition price with earnings from a minimum wage summer job. Today, you'd have to work full-time almost all year — and that's just to cover the $14,000 in average tuition and fees, not including books, living expenses, or transportation:


The listed tuition price isn't the best measure for how much college really costs, because most students end up paying less after help from government grants and discounts from colleges themselves. The average tuition price students actually paid at public colleges is $3,120; at private colleges, it's $12,460.

So it might still be possible to pay college tuition with a minimum wage summer job at a four-year public college, if you're also getting financial aid. But that's not true at every public college, and definitely not true at most private universities. And that doesn't even touch the costs of housing, food, and books, all of which have gone up since the 1980s too.

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