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"Even "then", I think it depended on what kind of school it was. Sure at the Ivys, or at the next lower tier schools, the students drove better cars than the faculty, but at the state schools or at the commuter schools, it was rare. Heck, I scraped and scrounged and bought a $500 jalopy in my last year of college, that had more dents and creases than Mick Jaggers face!"


I didn't want to suggest that working one's way through college is anything new: heck, my father did it before WWII. But my father lived a no-frills, poverty lifestyle. I can't claim the same level of student poverty c. 1970-1980 (with grad school), but I don't think any of my undergrad friends owned a car, we never ate out, except on very special dates, we bought jeans at the Army Surplus and wore the holes into them, and my great indulgence, bought with summer job money, was a low-end stereo, which wasn't replaced for about 15 years.

I'm sure there's some research on finance and today's college students, beyond anecdote. We do have statistics on debt and work, and the work hours definitely affect school (assigned homework is well under 50% of what I was assigned in college). But in terms of lifestyle, you just don't see signs of poverty (except overcrowded student rentals). Everyone has a cell phone. Everyone wears label clothes. I don't recall seeing anyone bring a bag lunch, instead of stopping at a fast-food joint. The bar scene is much too big to be just the rich kids (which doesn't preclude also having kegs at someone's house). And, I still cherish the image, I guess a couple years back by now, with rising gas prices, of the pretty blonde in her immaculate white jeep almost in tears as she was watching the meter tick up on the pump. I wish I had a photo. If you think of some Dorthea Lange image from the Depression, this would be the equivalent for today's borrow and spend economy.

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