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Study: College students work longer to pay tuition

Study: College students work longer to pay tuition

Today’s average college student has to work about four times as many hours on minimum wage as a student 30 years ago to access the same education.

According to data from, in Alabama in 2022-2023 in-state tuition and fees average $11,620 for public universities; out-of-state tuition and fees are $29,200.

The percentage of in-state students was 59.6% and weighted annual tuition amounted to $18,722, the company said. The average minimum wage for the year in Alabama was $7.25.

“The costs of college are out of control,” said Scott Winstead, founder and editor in chief of My eLearning World. “And perhaps not surprisingly, it all started around the time that the government began guaranteeing student loans.

“So even if the president pushes loan forgiveness through, it’s only a Band Aid on the problem. It does nothing to stop prices from continuing to rise in the future (and they will).”

Alabama is one of nine states where a student would have to work more than 52 weeks per year at minimum wage just to cover the cost of tuition and fees at a public university, according to the report. Students attending a private university would have to work around 89 hours each week, every week of the year.

“Some might say, well minimum wage should be raised,” Winstead said. “That’s a whole other topic, but raising it also won’t do anything to stop the skyrocketing prices of college.”

The total hours of work that were required to pay for annual tuition during the 2022-23 school year in Alabama was 2,582.39. As a result, a student had to work at least 49.66 hours a week on average to meet their financial needs for school. The national average for the year was 38.88 hours.

The estimates are just to cover tuition; the data excludes the cost of books, housing and food.


  • 30 years ago, the average student at a public university could pay for a full year of tuition by working around 500 hours at a minimum wage job
  • Today, the same student would have to work 2,022 hours on average at a minimum wage job to cover a year of tuition at a public university (about 39 hours each week, all year long)
  • Students who want to attend a private university would have to work about 4,646 hours on average at a minimum wage job to cover a year of tuition (about 89 hours each week, every week of the year)

Here are the Alabama public four-year universities and their in-state tuition and fees (according to Alabama A&M – $10,024; Alabama State – $11,068; Auburn – $11,826; Auburn – Montgomery – $8,860; Jacksonville State – $11,120; Troy – $9,312 (all campuses, online); University of Alabama – $11,620; University of Alabama at Birmingham – $8,568; University of Alabama in Huntsville – $11,488; University of Montevallo – $13,710; University of North Alabama – $10,620; University of South Alabama – $8,756; and University of West Alabama – $10,990.

“I don’t see any real relief in sight,” Winstead said. “And I think it’s a big reason why enrollment numbers are sinking and people are looking for other career options that don’t involve traditional college.”

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