Excessive Costs of Living and Schooling at UCI

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I’ve been thinking about putting out my shingle as a consultant lately.
Back before I went back to school, I was a web developer and a database analyst. I even did a little design work. While I won’t say I was the best, I was pretty good. Well enough to get by, and easily at that. My rates for consulting started at $30 an hour.
Imagine going from that to a student job.
Going to school at UCI puts the student between a rock and a hard place.
Besides tuition and textbooks, there is food, rent, a car payment (have to have a car to function in Orange County) and perhaps a couple dollars to go see a movie or buy a new book. Heaven forbid you be expected to buy a ticket to a play for a class, or have your car break down, or get towed by the overzealous IAC parking monitors.
Let’s say you have a student job on campus that earns you $10 an hour. The campus will only allow a full-time student to work 19 hours a week. So that’s $190 a week. We’ll ignore taxation for a moment, because I’m not a math major and it makes my job easier. That totals out to $760 a month.
Assuming that you live with a roommate in the apartment ghetto that IAC runs just off campus, are paying off your car and paying insurance, it can cost you a little over $1100 a month to live.
If you live with two other people in an apartment designed for two, you can cut that down to $900 a month.
If you live with three roommates in an apartment designed for two people, you can cut that down to $750 a month and be living on top of each other, in an environment where you’re lucky if you’re able to think, much less study.
If you own your own car, instead of making payments, you can lop off a bit more, maybe getting your payment down to $500 a month if you live in an apartment with three other people.
That’s just rent, a car payment and insurance. So already, with the student job, you can live four to an apartment. Living the way the apartment was designed is simply out of your budget.
Food is more intangable. If you’re a full-time student and a part-time worker (or worse, a full-time student and a full-time worker, as I know a lot of you out there are) you don’t necessarily have the time to sit down and cook something for every meal. So you can either try to pack yourself a lunch in the 10 minutes worth of free time you have, or you can eat at one of the myriad of food options around campus.
Hope you like fast-food.
Most of the food choices available on-campus are fast-food. Even when you do choose one of the non fast-food, cafe-type options such as Cornerstone, you can expect to pay more for less on average than you would if you just grabbed a burger at Carl’s or a sub at Subway.
If you decide to make the trek off-campus to University Center, you will find a variety of food choices priced well within the range of the people who work in the office building there.
If you work for In-N-Out, you can get a decent meal in your price-range. If not, I hope you really like eating at Ray’s every meal, because that’s the only thing that’s not going to stretch your food budget to over $10 a day.
So let’s assume that you really like pizza. At two meals a day with a slice of pizza and a large soda, that’s about eight dollars a day for food. Or $56 a week. So every month you can expect $224 to go towards food.
This leaves our student with the $10-an-hour job, a whopping $36 to handle everything else that comes up, from buying that play ticket to blue books for midterms.
Whoops! Gasoline for the car we’re paying the insurance on!
Gasoline in Irvine (and the rest of south Orange County) costs about 5 cents more, on average, than gasoline does in Westminster, Huntington Beach and the other cities of the northern part of the county.
I’m not sure why this is, beyond the perception that people in south Orange County have more money and so they can afford to pay a few more cents at the pump when they’re fueling up their BMW’s.
Of course, we don’t have a BMW, but we’re guilty by association, so there goes at least another $20. Which leaves us with a whopping $16. Which isn’t even enough to buy the aforementioned play ticket.
So what choices is a student left with? They can either take an off-campus job, which won’t care whether or not they’re a college student and expect them to be there whether its finals, midterms, a really heavy workloador the end of the world. And likely, that student will see their grades suffer for it, because their attention is divided between trying to get an education so they can actually afford to live in Irvine, and actually living in Irvine.
I realize the university is in a budget crisis, and money has to come from somewhere. And that it is addressing the issue of overpriced housing by building more units. But until a student can afford to live in this city and attend school in this city, the university needs to make paying their student employees a living wage a priority.
The $10 quoted above is a fantasy for most student workers, and it’s a shame that the university is, in essence, running a skilled-labor sweatshop on the backs of student workers. We are a captive labor pool who are paying for the privilege of being paid less than we’re worth, and the university needs to correct this before students are priced out of attending school in Irvine.

Matt Davis is a fourth-year English major.

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