Skip to content

NWANONYIRI: College students' worst nightmare, inflation

With inflation rates rising many college-aged people are having great difficulty in the job and housing market. – Photo by NFT gallery /

Life has always been structured for us to transition from childhood to adulthood: going to school, getting a job, buying a house, getting married, having kids and hopefully retiring. Unfortunately, many of us cannot even obtain a stable job to afford a one-bedroom, one-bath studio apartment.

Imagine working long hours, five days a week and not having enough pocket change for essentials like groceries after paying rent. Living comfortably sounds like a luxury, but it comes at an unimaginable cost. Inflation is getting worse, and college-aged students are holding onto every last dime they have.

The cost of standard living expenses has significantly increased since 2021. Prices for necessities such as food, gas and utilities have increased by 20 percent, with rent surging at around the same rate. This is overwhelming for students fresh out of college looking to find a living space. In 2020, the median monthly cost of rent across the U.S. was approximately $1,691, increasing to nearly $1,821 in just one year.

To make matters worse, as of 2023, the expected salary to keep up with the rent of a two-bedroom apartment is $33.50 an hour in New Jersey. This makes up a yearly salary of approximately $67,000, while the median annual income was only $59,540.

With this difference, Americans are barely making ends meet for their living situations. Paying rent with this salary alone is nearly impossible and does not leave money for other essentials. Numbers like these are hard-hitting, especially for young adults working entry-level jobs that pay even lower rates.

More than 50 percent of Generation Z claimed they are "extremely worried about not having enough money." While work-life balance is a priority for many in this age group, inflation has made it extremely difficult to obtain.

One woman came forward online, expressing concern for affordable housing and frustration with working full-time, but being unable to obtain a place to live. TikTok creator @chailynt is a full-time Walmart employee, who works 40 hours weekly and barely makes enough to get by. She posted a viral video explaining her disturbance with older generations who call Generation Z lazy and blame them for the current state of our economy.

This sparked conversations about Generation Z's status in the job field, where individuals shared their opinions on the topic. One comment stated, "I'm genuinely so scared for my future (I don’t know) what I'm supposed to do. I cannot live like this." Another stated, "There will be no such thing as retirement for us." Following the same structured life as professed by older generations is not enough to live comfortably.

Younger generations are more inclined to pursue easier and online-based jobs as side hustles to help make ends meet. Almost 1 in 5 Generation Z members said they would quit their job to become a social media influencer, and 12 percent said they would quit college to do so. It is reasonable to believe that part of this stems from the higher costs of bare essentials. With these various opportunities available, why work harder when you can work smarter?

Inflation can also shift the poverty line due to rising costs. From 2021 to 2022, the U.S. experienced its largest one-year increase in the poverty rate, from 7.4 percent to 12.4 percent. This is especially alarming for adults coming out of school with entry-level salaries, specifically across New Jersey, averaging $30,536.

Meanwhile, the average cost for a single person to live comfortably in areas such as Newark is an astounding $116,646. This is disappointing for the number of individuals who will not be able to come anywhere near this salary until possibly years later in their careers.

At the same time, some of the older generations with years of experience can benefit from inflation. Many baby boomers receive Social Security checks adjusted to the inflation rate, increasing the income they can spend.

Yet, younger generations often do not receive inflation adjustments to their salaries. This puts them at a disadvantage due to the lack of additional income that could help cover housing and other personal costs. Without these benefits, Generation Z is more likely to struggle with supporting themselves and establishing future financial investments that older generations already have, such as starting a family and owning a house.

Programs to mitigate this issue include the Inflation Reduction Act, signed by President Joesph R. Biden on August 16, 2022. The bill’s main purpose is to invest in domestic energy and tackle climate change.

While this sounds like the perfect solution to an everlasting issue, the act is not directed explicitly toward the rising cost of food, utilities and housing. During a fundraiser in Utah, Biden stated, "I wish I hadn't called it that, because it has less to do with reducing inflation than it has to do with providing alternatives that generate economic growth."

Hopefully, the U.S. will create better incentives to properly tackle these rising prices for the younger generation, ending this nightmare.

Uju Nwanonyiri is a sophomore in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in journalism and media studies and public health. Nwanonyiri’s column, “Debrief Discussions” runs on alternate Wednesdays.

*Columns, cartoons, letters and commentaries do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Letters to the editor must be between 350 and 600 words. Commentaries must be between 600 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to and to be considered for publication.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe