Ladders to opportunity: Amanda

September 10, 2014 | Economic Opportunity Institute

Amanda“Ever since I turned 16, I’ve had a job. I’ve always had at least two jobs, so when I lost one, I had another to fall back on until I found another job… I’m so sick of having to work two part-time jobs. I’ve been doing that for 10 years now… Even with my degree it’s still hard to find a [full-time] job.”

Amanda recently graduated from college and has achieved a higher level of education than both of her parents. She consistently works more than one job, one always in retail, but struggles to make ends meet. She will be starting graduate school this fall and feels education is important for economic security.

“My mom… was a single mother. She hasn’t gone to college. I don’t think my mom really intended for me to go to college. And honestly I didn’t really want to go. It just seemed like the better option than working right away. So I applied to community college because I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to do it all. At community college, I found something that I loved, and I transferred to the University of Washington. I’m still paying for college. For my community college, I paid out-of-pocket. I worked two jobs and paid off my AA [degree]. But for my Bachelor’s degree, which I’m still paying off, I had to take out student loans.”

Amanda has worked steadily since she was a teenager, but she still struggles to make ends meet. “Ever since I turned 16, I’ve had a job. I’ve always had at least two jobs, so when I lost one, I had another to fall back on until I found another job… I’m so sick of having to work two part-time jobs. I’ve been doing that for 10 years now that I think about it. I’m finding that it’s a lot harder to find work if you don’t have a college degree. And even with my degree it’s still hard to find a job. I’m still a sales associate. I’m not even getting 20 hours a week. I’m lucky if I get 10, maybe 15. I just settled for a job that I wasn’t really happy with. And I’m still there because it’s really hard to find a job, especially when I was in school.

“I think it’s harder for people my age to find one full-time job. I don’t think it’s realistic any more. I just don’t think people are hiring for full-time jobs anymore because they don’t want to pay for the benefits. A lot of people aren’t flexible… I’ve only been finding temporary positions because it’s hard even with your BA [degree]. If you don’t have experience, no one wants to hire you.”

“I’m barely making it, to be honest… I’m just working about 40 hours a week [total] and that’s still not enough. If I calculated it all, with all my student loans, groceries, I’d basically come out flat. I’m pretty much living on my savings right now because my paycheck only covers so much. Like I said, I come out flat, so if I need anything extra, it comes out of my savings.”

Covering basic costs is already a constant struggle for Amanda. So when she got sick and had to take time off work, it was a big blow to her economic security. “I’ve never had any benefits. I was in the hospital, and my appendix ruptured. I couldn’t work for three or four weeks. So all that time that I wasn’t working, all of that money is money that I could have used to pay my school loans. So it did make a big difference.”

Even while working full time, Amanda has to use her savings just to get by. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Despite the obstacles, Amanda continues to strive for more education so she can be financially independent. Passing state-wide policies that guarantee paid leave, affordable tuition and a fair wage would remove the obstacles in Amanda’s way of meeting her basic needs – and getting the graduate degree she’s been working so hard for.

For more about economic mobility, including other Ladders to Opportunity stories, please visit this page.

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Posted in Higher Education, Paid Sick Days, State Economy, Women in the Workforce

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