Study Shows College Students Would Have to Work 100 Hours Per Week All Year Round to Afford Private School Tuition

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Average in-state tuition at public, non-profit universities has risen 2,580 percent between 1970 and 2021, while minimum wage has only gone up 353 percent., a trusted resource for online degree rankings and higher education planning, has published a report on the astronomical rise of university tuition. The study also examines why the minimum wage has not increased enough to help students keep up with the costs.

According to the study, average in-state tuition and fees for one year at a public non-profit university have increased by 2,580 percent since 1970. American students pay an average of $10,560 annually for tuition and fees, while students 50 years ago only paid $394. The cost of tuition at private institutions has also increased by 2,107 percent, from an annual cost of $1,706 in 1970 to $37,650 in 2020.

The report also indicates the disparity between the rise in college tuition and the lack of an increase in the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage increased by 353 percent between 1970 and 2020, rising from $1.60 to $7.25. However, students in 1970 could earn $768 from a summer job and cover their annual expenses at an in-state, public university. At the current minimum wage rate, a student would only earn $3,480 pre-tax, which is less than half of one year’s tuition at a public university. To make up the difference, the student would have to work 24 hours a week for the rest of the year.

Research shows that the disparity is even more extreme at private institutions. In 2021, students would have to work 100 hours a week, 52 weeks a year at the minimum wage to afford the average private-school tuition. Conversely, students in 1970 could afford college if they worked full time over the summer and 15 hours a week for the rest of the year. The report suggests that the current wage to tuition ratio makes it nearly impossible to afford private school tuition on minimum wage without external financial support. collected the data for this report from the National Center for Education Statistics, the United States Department of Labor,, and the Economic Policy Institute. To access the complete report, please visit:

ABOUT INTELLIGENT.COM provides unbiased research to help students make informed decisions about higher education programs. The website offers curated guides that include the best degree programs as well as information about financial aid, internships, and even study strategies. With comprehensive, user-friendly guides and hundreds of program rankings, is a trusted source among students and prospective students. To learn more, please visit

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Julia Morrissey
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