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Increasing University Student Employee Wages: Why and How

— July 6, 2016

Universities across America are often seen as a hot bed for progressive and liberal ideas. With an increasing demand on the left for higher minimum wages it appears universities have turned a blind eye on student workers. The irony is universities seem to support liberalism so long as it does not involve increasing student payroll. However, New York University has decided to go against the grain and pay student employees what (NYU) President Andrew Hamilton describes as a “live able” wage.  Over the next three years, the New York University unveiled a comprehensive plan to increase student payroll up to $15 by 2019. Despite this change in the status quo, few universities have fallowed New York Universities lead and announced plans to increase student pay. Often student workers are under looked in the debate about increasing the minimum wage, but they are a far cry from the least in need of raise. According to Brockport University the average wage of a student while attending college is $7.48. Combine this with a recent study from George Town University that shows an increase in both tuition costs and a net increase in the percentage of students who are working a job while seeking an undergraduate degree. One would be overly optimistic to then assume that the average wage college students receive is even putting a dent in their overall expenses.

The fear with universities continuing the status quo is a deceptive price out of low income students. Students with large college funds, zero debt and affluent backgrounds are not the intended beneficiaries of such policies. Often opponents of such a wage would argue that the Pell Grant program already subsidizes majority of these student’s income. Referring to a recent article by the New York Times, student recipients only receive compensation for 12 hours a semester. With most universities having an average requirement of 25 hours to graduate. It would take a student 11 semesters to graduate (roughly five and half years) with a bachelor’s degree assuming that student only used the Pell Grant to pay for college. This makes college nearly unaffordable for students who have to spend more than five years of their life at the undergraduate level. While increasing the minimum wage will not entirely solve this issue, it certainly will be a start in the direction of affordability.

Incremental policy solutions from campus administrators and student leaders will be required to bridge the wage gap at universities across America. However, few students realize the potential impact they can have in self-advocacy especially in the context of policy changes. Just because the federal government has yet to increase the minimum wage, does not mean you as an individual cannot advocate for change within the community you reside. Students are the consumers of a university. The university cannot operate without students. Purely understanding that concept demonstrates the power students have in regards to impacting campus policy and decisions. We still are far off, but I feel optimistic for the future and believe the students of today are up to the challenge of fighting for an increase in university student employee wages.

Evan Grosch

Undergraduate Missouri State University




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