Report: Pa. students would have to do triple time to work their way through college |
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Deb Erdley

Once again, Pennsylvania is ranked No. 1 — only of a list no one wants to top: college costs.

The state’s public universities are among the priciest in the nation and landed Pennsylvania at the top of a list that calculated how many hours a week a student would have to work at a minimum-wage job to pay his or her way through college.

Using a formula that took the cost of room and board at a state-owned university and the number of weeks in a school year that a student can work, calculated that Pennsylvania students would have to work 119.6 hours a week to cover their costs.

That kind of overtime leaves 48.4 hours a week to attend class, study and sleep.

TextbookRush found that Pennsylvania students pay an average of $14,597 a year for on-campus housing. What’s more, Pennsylvania has the second-highest in-state tuition (with an average of $11,416) in the country and the lowest minimum wage allowable by federal law ($7.25 per hour), the college textbook retailer determined.

Numbers like that have ratcheted up borrowing. And that, in turn, has translated into more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding student debt for some 44 million Americans. Those numbers have made college costs a key issue in the upcoming 2020 elections and triggered proposals calling for a program to refinance student debt and others that would ease bankruptcy laws surrounding the discharge of student debt.

Although student debt is spread across several generations, TextbookRush looked back 45 years and found today’s costs are a far cry the 1970s. When the number crunchers plugged in figures from 1974, they found a student working 27.5 hours a week could have covered tuition and room and board at a public university with their earnings.

Today, however, Pennsylvania students aren’t alone. Other states among the top 10 include: New Hampshire, where a student would have to work 114.6 hours a week; Virginia, 101.7 hours a week; Indiana, 96.4 hours a week; South Carolina at 94.3 hours a week; Louisiana, 93 hours a week; Delaware, 91.4 hours a week; Tennessee, 88.7 hours a week; Kentucky, 84.9 hours a week; and Alabama, 84.8 hours a week

But things are tough everywhere.

Even in Washington state, which sat at the bottom of the list, a student would have to work overtime and put in 52.4 hours a week on the job to cover college costs.

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