How will the minimum wage debate affect the University?

Jaxon White, News Co-Editor

Although the recent attempt to raise the federal minimum wage through the COVID-19 relief bill failed, a large following of citizens and politicians alike still support the idea. Whether it’s raised to $10 or $15 an hour, any increase would affect the number of students in their on-campus jobs. 

According to Manager of Student Employment Services Julie Rowe, the University employs roughly 1,000 students; just short of one-third of the student population, these positions include student-calling services, TechDesk support staff, teaching assistants, student researchers and many more. 

Rowe added that the number of employment opportunities that are offered at the University vary by semester and are based on the available funding. “The University works with hiring managers and departments to employ as many students as possible, as long as they can be financially supported,” Rowe said.  

The average student employee makes about $8.80 per hour at the University. For comparison, the current federal minimum wage is set at $7.25. “My job definitely does not cover my expenses, as the maximum I can make per semester is $400,” Christopher Bazela ’23, a study group facilitator who makes $8 an hour, said. Bazela added that the money he earns goes towards paying for such necessities as groceries, gas and textbooks. Although Bazela does enjoy his job, he does feel that his pay is “an insufficient amount of funds to cover simple expenses let alone helping towards the tuition of $72,000 per year.” 

On the other hand, some students are content with their wage. Nina Sigety ’23 feels that she is paid enough at her position in the Student Calling Program: “I honestly don’t feel the need to be paid any more. This is the highest paying job on campus, and it’s that way because of the work and skill it takes.” Similar to Bazela, Sigety’s paycheck mostly goes towards her weekly groceries, and any leftover goes into her savings. 

Seeing both sides of the argument, Mady Lawrence ’21 feels comfortable with the amount she is making as a grader for the math department, but also sees value in raising the pay for students: “For someone looking for a job to pay towards school or more expenses, it would definitely be worth getting a job in town or off campus as I know many students do, compared to working on campus.” 

Rowe said that while the administration has no current plans to increase the minimum pay rate for on-campus jobs, they will continue to review the wages across campus. “In the near future, Student Employment Services will be undertaking a comprehensive compensation study for all student employment positions. At that time, all current wage rates will be reviewed and may result in changes to create equity among positions across campus,” Rowe said. “Bucknell supports fair and equitable wages for all student employees and is receptive to offering positions that pay above the current minimum wage.” 

The University will need to abide by any increase in the federal minimum wage, but many students are concerned that the budget for student employment would become strained if forced to adjust to a minimum wage hike. “Departments may need to adjust the number of students that they employ, or adjust the number of hours that students are working if there are changes to pay in the future…Each department and hiring manager is responsible for monitoring their own budgets to determine whether the number of student employees or work hours needs to be adjusted,” Rowe said. 

To guarantee that students are not released from their positions on campus, the budget for student employment would need to be adjusted to fit the new demands of a higher wage. Student employment funding comes from a variety of sources, according to Rowe, including, “federal work-study funding (which is managed by the Office of Financial Aid), departmental budgets, grant funding, faculty and departmental project funds, and various gift funds.” 

In the end, those who support a higher wage given to University students may need to ask themselves if they are willing to accept a lower number of employment opportunities on campus.

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