Minimum Wage vs. Tuition

When I began at Portland State College in fall term 1967 (Portland State became a University in 1968), I was working part-time as a stock clerk at Leed’s shoe store in downtown Portland. I was paid the federal minimum wage, $1.40 per hour. (There was no state minimum wage then.)

Tuition for my first year at Portland State was $123 per term. So I had to work 88 hours to pay my tuition.

Nowadays, federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. PSU tuition is $1740 per term.

A student working at the federal minimum wage would need to work 240 hours to pay for a term’s tuition. Luckily, if they live in Oregon the minimum wage is $9.10 per hour, so they only need to work 191 hours.

But wait! When I was a student, $123 covered tuition for 12 credits or more per term. I often took 16-18 credits per term for $123! (Or more in later years, but still, tuition was based on a fee for 12 credits or more. I think you could take up to 19 credits without special permission.)

Sixteen to eighteen credits at PSU now costs $2,320-2,610, so that would be 255-287 hours.

If Oregon minimum wage were keyed to state university tuition, then the minimum wage should be $19.77–so that 88 hours of work would pay for tuition, like in the good old days.




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