The paradoxical cycle of working to pay for higher education

Hunter Holland collects coins off the ground. Sunday, September 3, 2023 (Illustration by Andre Ottati)
Hunter Holland collects coins off the ground. Sunday, September 3, 2023 (Illustration by Andre Ottati)

Written by: Alexis Dewey

You’re sitting in your dorm room after a long day, exhausted from each class, meeting and job on your schedule. It’s finally the best part of the day — the time when you get to do your absolute favorite thing in the whole wide world: the ever-present homework. (yawn)

While doing your assignments, you get hungry for dinner. You get up after studying for hours to forage through your mini-fridge. You push over the moldy strawberries and move past the leftovers from two weeks ago to find that there is no food in your desolate refrigerator. That’s when you realize that you are broke. You flashback to the day before when you hopped on your laptop to buy your schoolbooks. 

“Books are $200?” you ask yourself as you go to grab your debit card out of your backpack from middle school.

If you have ever had a day like this, trust me, you are not alone. Struggling financially in college is not unusual and is actually quite common. So, the question is: How do we fix it? Or, maybe, a better question is: Can we break this cycle?

As someone who pays the majority of my college tuition, I am amazed at the end of every semester when I am able to pay for my schooling here at Southern Adventist University. On the other hand, I am also displeased when I think about how much more I could have learned if I did not have to work so hard to pay for that tuition.  

Southern is considered a great university for intellectual studies and learning, and I would agree with that. However, am I truly gaining the experience of growing and learning if I must work to the point that I don’t have an adequate amount of time to study? 

Please, don’t get me wrong. I love attending Southern, and I think it’s an amazing college. My professors have taught me so much. However, it’s no secret that the university’s tuition is higher than most of us would prefer, and it’s been increasing.

College tuition increases every year, but student wages have not been raised to accommodate. 

“Tuition went up from $11,490 per semester to $12,175 per semester. This is a $1,370, or 6%, increase for the year,” wrote Tom Verrill, senior vice president for Financial Administration, in an email to the Accent. 

Southern, however, did not raise the student wages this year, wrote Verill. Southern promotes getting a job on campus as a good way to make money. However, if you must pay for your own tuition, a campus job paying minimum wage won’t make the cut.

Now, I know what you are probably thinking: “If it’s too expensive, go to school somewhere else.” 

I cannot argue with you there, although I have gone to another college. I’m a transfer student, and Southern’s program and learning experience is very valuable to me. That is why I am willing to stay and pay the high tuition. I believe if God wants me somewhere, and I remain faithful to Him, He will provide. 

However, my love for this university doesn’t make it easier for me to pay the bills and get my homework done on time. 

 Many of us who pay our own tuition have to work endless hours and miss out on social opportunities around campus. Even if we have scholarships and grants, as I do, we often find ourselves working more than we are studying. I’m working to support my studies. But how can I study and receive a quality education when I’m working so much? It’s a paradoxical cycle many students can never escape.

So, I ask you: Isn’t that counterproductive? 

Editor’s Note: To submit a piece or pitch an idea for the opinion column, email My inbox is also always open to comments, questions and critique.

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