UA student workers struggle to earn a living 


CW / David Gray

A Division of Student life worker assists students moving into their new dorms at the start of the 2022-2023 semester.

Josie Wahl and Natalie Marburger

Editors Note (3/1/23): The print version of this article was inadvertently printed with inaccurate RA pay information pre-2020. The online version of this article was corrected prior to online publication.  


Student workers at The University of Alabama struggle to make ends meet due to the University’s lack of adjustment in pay in reflection to inflation and the amount of effort needed to do the job. 

The University offers a range of jobs both on- and off-campus. Currently there are 2,460 undergraduate student employees according to Shane Dorrill, the assistant director of communications. 

On-campus student workers are limited to 20 hour weeks with exceptions during winter and summer breaks. Pay for student jobs across campus varies by the departments of campus students work for.  

Dorrill said individual departments set student employees’ wages based on the available operating budgets.  

According to The University of Alabama Division of Finance and Operation, on-campus undergraduate and graduate student workers must be enrolled in a degree program and during fall and spring semesters they must meet a minimum six credit hour for undergraduate students and four-and-a-half credit hour for graduate students requirement to be a student worker. International students must be registered as a full time student and must be in lawful F-1 or J-1 status, which are student visas with the possibility of employment  

Students can find jobs through myBama, the UA Student Jobs website, and campus fliers. 

Allie Songy, a junior majoring in management information systems who works at an information desk in Gorgas library, said she has noticed students having difficulty searching for jobs on myBama, as it is not easily accessible.  

“The biggest problem I found is that a lot of people don’t know about people’s jobs,” said Alaina McDuffie, a junior majoring in public relations, who’s a building manager at The University of Alabama Student Center. “I’ve seen people asking if anyone is hiring and I just don’t think they publicize jobs enough.” 

Median wage for student workers is $10 per hour, according to Dorrill. Although student employment helps with financial needs, students have expressed concerns over their wages. One of the issues student workers have had is with inflation affecting the cost of living on or around campus.  

Avery Fernandez, a sophomore majoring in computer engineering who works with the research and data services team at the library, said that the rise of gas prices has affected the way he budgets his money.  

According to AAA Gas Prices, the current regular gas average for Alabama is $3.13 compared to $3.02 a month ago. Gas prices reached an all time high of $4.63 in June 2022.  

“It used to be $20 to fill my gas tank and now it’s like $45, which takes a big chunk out of my money, and food prices have doubled for me,” Fernandez said. “I try to save a good amount of my money for the future when I want to buy a house and now I have no money that I save.” 

According to NBC News, eggs have gone up $2.24 since last year and a loaf of bread has gone up 38 cents.

McDuffie said working for the University only covers the necessities. 

“I have enough to pay my bills, put gas in my car, and feed myself so just my basic needs are met,” McDuffie said.  

McDuffie makes $10.50 an hour as a building manager while the rest of the UA Student Center staff makes $8.05 an hour. 

Brayden Wall, a junior majoring in finance and operations management works as a supervisor of facility operations at the Student Recreation Center. Wall said students working at the rec center got a $1 pay increase last year, so now Wall makes $9 an hour.  

“There’s been some improvement, but it’s just not where it should be,” Wall said.   

Wall thinks the lack of pay gets compensated with the flexibility of hours. 

“We get the flexibility to work whenever we want to work because we only have to work two hour shifts,” Wall said. “Instead of working someplace off-campus where you’d have to work a six or eight hour shift, but you get paid more.” 

Another issue student workers have is that they have to pay to park for their jobs either by paying for a school parking pass, or paying to park hourly in selected spots.  

McDuffie said on days where she works early she has to pay to park on a surface lot.

“Last semester I was probably paying $20 a week, maybe more on parking,” McDuffie said. 

With the loss of those $20, McDuffie is putting two hours of work toward paying for parking and depending on what hours she was scheduled that could add up to $80 a month, and $240 a semester.  

According to UA parking, parking passes cost $345 for a commuter pass and $400 for a residential pass 

“We actually got lots of parking tickets during training this semester because they didn’t give us anywhere to park,” said Natalie Alexander, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, who worked as a residential adviser August 2019 to December 2022 

Alexander said few people got three to four tickets during the training, and she paid $40 herself for tickets. 

According to Bama Parking, it is a $25 fine for improper registration, time limit, and pay station violation. A $50 fine for improper zone, improper use of permit and improper parking.   

Students can pay to park using the ParkMobile app in various, limited spots on campus. The price on parking varies depending on how many hours you park for.  

Students are also able to pay to park in visitor parking decks which cost $1 for the first hour and $2 for each subsequent hour with a maximum daily charge of $10 per entry.  

Fernandez said he parks in the northeast parking lot and walks to work at the library. Some days he works until 9 p.m. and has to walk back in the dark.  

“I asked the parking people about it because I wanted to get a parking pass over here since it’s a pretty far walk,” Fernandez said. “They told me that I’m a student before I’m an employee so I don’t get any benefits for it.”  

Student workers do not get benefits or accommodations such as meal plan discounts or parking permits. Though, residential advisers get housing in exchange for helping oversee dorm buildings.   

Resident advising is a popular job on campus, having around 600 students show up to a briefing last semester though only 50 positions were open, according to Alexander.  

 “We work in housing because we cannot afford housing,” Alexander said.  

The pay for RAs was $150 for first-year assistants and $175 for returners, but in 2020, UA raised it to $200 per month for new RAs, and $225 for returning. 

With gas and grocery prices being high, Alexander said that the University has not kept pace with inflation, and agrees the pay should be raised. “It is not enough to live off of and it is not enough to get food with,” Alexander said.