Can Vietnamese students sustain themselves through college?

By Hong Tran   March 1, 2022 | 05:00 pm PT
Can Vietnamese students sustain themselves through college?
College students in HCMC's District 1 pack their belongings to return to their hometown for the Tet holiday, January 15, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Tung
In more developed countries, the answer would be a no brainer. Of course college students can earn enough to meet daily expenses from the very first year.

The answer is a no brainer in Vietnam, too. Of course not.

Let's say the monthly cost of independent living is around VND5 million ($219) a month in Vietnam. If a student spends four hours working part time each day, he or she would make around VND3 million a month, not enough to sustain himself or herself.

The problem lies in the widening gap between living standards and monthly incomes. A student living on his or her own would need to cover rent, food, transportation and tuition at the very least, not to mention other costs that may arise.

They would typically spend between VND3 million and VND5.5 million a month, and that's a modest estimate.

Depending on the school, tuition fees can vary significantly; and a student without financial support would soon find it an insurmountable wall. A prestigious private school, for instance, would easily eat up VND10 million a month. Earning that kind of money is next to impossible for a new student.

Part-time jobs for students typically pay VND17,000 to VND30,000 per hour. If the average hourly wage of a student is VND25,000, even a student working for more than four hours a day will not earn more than VND4 million a month.

In Germany, six KFC hot wings would cost around €6, but just one hour of work will net a typical student €10, not including tips. In New Zealand, the wings would cost around NZ$9, and the average hourly wage is NZ$ 16.5.

In Vietnam, the gap between living standards and incomes is very difficult to bridge. Here, an hour's work may only fetch one a bowl of noodles, not enough for even one fried chicken drumstick.

Accommodation rent might be a bit more manageable, as it would depend on the location, getting more expensive as people move closer to downtown areas. Tuition, however, can be much more difficult to handle, with the cheapest universities charging around VND15 million a year, VND1.25 million a month, which would still be a significant portion of a student's income.

There are better part-time jobs for students, from personal tutors to teacher assistants, which will allow a college life not dependent on money from families. But not many students can do this. For the average students, an independent college life is a pipedream and it will remain so until the gap between living costs and income is significantly narrowed.

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