By Tom Iacuzio
Online poker, a work-study program and money saved from a summer job are what allow junior Sean Boshard to survive the rising cost of being a college student. “I do what I have to do,” Boshard said. “Sometimes it’s all about the hustle.”
According to a 2006 study done by the College Board, a non-profit association of 4,500 schools, colleges and universities, the average price of a college education has risen from $3,600 a year in 1971 to a nationwide average of a little over $29,000 a year in 2006. That increased rate is higher than that of inflation, health insurance, and most importantly, the average American’s income.
Flagler College students can consider themselves lucky. Flagler has ranked in the 2006 edition of the Princeton Review’s “America’s Best Value Colleges,” as it has for the past couple years. However, even Flagler College has had a steady increase in tuition, up over $3,000 from five years ago.
But tuition is not the only expense on the rise for average college students.
According to Yahoo! Real Estate, the average cost of an apartment rental for the St. Augustine area is $749 for a two-bedroom apartment. This compares to a $653 national average.
Boshard is in the majority of Flagler students who live off campus. He is currently renting an apartment for $420 a month. Of course this doesn’t cover any of his utilities, food, or any other of his living expenses. “Thank God for college loans,” said Boshard. “Or I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
While these rent totals may not seem staggering to a normal working American, to your typical college student, they are astronomical. Boshard is originally from Ashland, Mo. He says that in his local college town, a college student can “live like a king for about $250.” A far cry from the close to $1,000 a month many students put out in St. Johns County.
Boshard is not alone. Amy Kingsnorth, a communication major, understands what Boshard is going through. “My rent has gone up twice since I have lived at my house. Not significantly, but it has gone up,” she said. “My landlord is in his early 30s and his wife is a Flagler alumna so they try to cut us a break.”
Peter Fragale, a Realtor and Property Manager with RentStAugustine.com credits this rise in cost to substantial property tax increases as well as a rise in property insurance premiums. “These increases have taken their toll on the owner’s cash flow and toll on the owner’s cash flow and the bottom line,” said Fragale.
Fragale pointed out that a complex on Anastasia Island recently had their insurance premiums raised $400,000 which resulted in each individual owner being assessed $2,500. Spread out over a year, that is a rent increase of over $200 a month.
“I worry that we are reaching a point of pushing renters out of St. Augustine with no affordable housing alternatives,” admitted Fragale.
Another pressing issue is the debate over the cost of textbooks. According to a 2005 study by the National Association of College Stores, prices have tripled over the last 20 years. Today, the average student can expect to spend over $900 a year in books and supplies. Interestingly, the study went on to state that books and supplies count for only 6 percent of a student’s expenses.
Students who register online for their classes at Flagler College may notice a far too familiar statement when clicking on a class they wish to register for: No textbook list available.
In most cases, the textbook list is not made available until the first class with many classes having reading assignments due the next class period, making the waiting time for online purchases not feasible.
With online shopping a viable option for cash-starved students, enabling the textbook list feature prior to the start of the semester might give students who otherwise could not afford books a chance to get them cheaper.
Dr. Tracy Halcomb, head of the communication department, is unsure of why the feature isn’t used but understands that online purchasing is direct competition with the campus bookstore. “But that competition could do nothing but serve the students in the best way possible by giving them options,” said Halcomb.
All of this, combined with the rising cost of everyday items like milk, bread, gas, and the expected parking meter jump from 25 cents to $1.50 spells trouble for hopeful college graduates, many of whom have had to enter the workforce a bit early.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in May 2006, nearly 54 percent of college students worked full or part time. The study also showed that the number of full-time students working full time has gone up 92 percent in the last ten years. The study did not account for those worked two or more jobs like Kingsnorth.
Kingsnorth is currently juggling jobs at the San Sebastian Winery as well as a real estate job on top of her busy class schedule.
“My loans never give me extra living expense money so I am always struggling for cash and trying to cut corners,” admits Kingsnorth.
“Last year I took 16 credit hours with no electives. I broke down at least once a week over stress.”
The problem that this poses lies in the fact that because of the necessity of having a job, students are finding less and less time to take part in what have become resume necessities, extracurricular activities and internships.
According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, employers stated that undergraduate internships were one of the leading factors in determining if a student is hired. The study pointed out that 62 percent of all new college hires in 2005 had internship experience.
Halcomb sees the lack of internship opportunities as a rising problem.
“In Senior Portfolio, we ask students why they don’t have an internship on their resume and in most cases, these students are holding at least one job or working full time or are working two part-time jobs just to get through Flagler,” she said. “It has an impact on how many hours students can take and complete in a quality way. It’s sad when students have to make that choice.”
With the current trend in prices continuing to climb, more students like Sean Boshard are finding surviving is “all about the hustle.”
Society of Professional Journalists Region 3 Mark of Excellence Award Winner