This chart from Michigan State University computer science graduate student Randy Olson explains why working your way through college — something many people who grew up in more fortunate economic times recommend — is pretty much impossible these days.
Comparing federal minimum wage trends to the rise in MSU tuition over the past 30 years, Olson found that the average 2013 MSU student would have to work six times as long at minimum wage to pay for their tuition as they would in 1979. As Olson writes:
The 1979 student would have to work about 10 weeks at a part-time job (~203 hours) — basically, they could pay for tuition just by working part-time over the Summer. In contrast, the 2013 student would have to work for 35 ½ weeks (~1420 hours) — over half the year — at a full-time job to pay for the same number of credit hours.