BURGESS: Effects of inflation on college students

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Oct. 2022 the United States hit its highest annual inflation rate, 6.2%, its highest annual rate in more than three decades. To combat it last month President Joe Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act or the IRA.

Among other things, the IRA is supposed to lower health care costs and tackle the climate crisis. But what about us college students? What about our loan debt? What about living costs? The IRA has only made it worse for everyone, especially college students.

Last year, the Marquette University Board of Trustees approved a 2% increase in tuition for this year. Room and board also increased by 3.5%. With the increasing inflation, many college students will have sought to take out a larger loan, increasing their debt and graduated students that will have to deal with the increased interest on their loan debt.

Ben Workman, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, said that “inflation continues to devalue university education…” Many understand the advantage of having a degree, but the cost of getting that degree will only demean its value.

Workman also says that fewer students will get part-time jobs, “since the income seems so insignificant to comparison.” Here at Marquette, most on campus jobs, that are provided here, don’t pay more than $10-11 an hour and those jobs you vary from 5-20 hours a week, maximum. That’s 100 dollars a week without tax.

And as a student we are only allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week so we can focus on school. Most students don’t want to work for so little, especially when we have to balance college and our personal life.

Even the textbooks from the Marquette Bookstore are absurdly expensive. If I wanted the print book for my journalism class, it would have cost me $84.74 just to rent a used print. They’re making sure nursing students in the junior class buy a $700 new textbook when they bought a similar one their first-year after being told they’d use it all 4 years.

With the increasing cost and increasing debt, 44% of currently enrolled undergraduate students with either federal or private loans considered dropping out of school. No one wants to deal with the financial burden.

On Sept. 13, the entire administration celebrated the “good” that they are doing following The Inflation Reduction Act. It has only been a month since the IRA was signed and the Consumer Price Index has increased by 0.1% from last month, 8.3%. President Biden even said, ‘The American people won.’ No, no we have not.

The IRA says nothing about solving inflation – and ‘inflation’ is in the name. Phillip Lee Swagel, an American economist and director of the Congressional Budget Office said so in a letter he sent to the South Carolina Senator, Lindsey O. Graham.  “… enacting the bill would have a  negligible effect on inflation …” If that’s the case, what’s the point of this act?

Food prices play another part in affecting the lives of college students. With income decreasing but food prices increasing, how are we going to eat?

Many college students do not have the best options for campus dining. If you get the 50 swipes plan it costs $9.20 dollars a meal. That’s almost $500 for food that is barely nutritious or even good. With that, students are left to grocery shop or even order food for delivery using apps such as DoorDash or UberEats. All of this becomes very expensive and just adds more pressure on college students to penny-pinch.

We have classes to take, we have papers to write, and we have projects to work on. We only have so much time.

We are supposed to be the next generation of doctors, lawyers, construction workers and biologists. How are we supposed to accomplish not only what we want for ourselves but for this country if we can’t afford to get the degree? Something needs to change sooner rather than later, or it will lead to everyone’s downfall. Or will it?

This story was written by Trinity Burgess. She can be reached at trinity.burgess@marquette.edu.