Minimum wage increase sends campus scrambling

Institutional

The state-level increase in the minimum wage has sent school officials and budget makers rushing to cover an unexpected shortfall for the semester and year.

The November 7 election measure increased the state minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.50. This new wage went into effect on January 1 and will be seen by students on their paychecks in February.

With present projections, the campus will have to face an unbudgeted mandatory increase of $120,000 for the spring semester alone. That number was reached from the estimated hours students work per department, the increase for students who fall under the new rate and federal work study programs.

Currently, 400 to 450 people students are employed on campus and on average they work 15 hours a week. “The average student worker last year was making $6.25,” said Jeff Wilson, the student employment coordinator. “We have been hoping to gather some new statistics… to get good sound numbers on the folks who were making under $6.50 and to get a paper work trail of them increasing up to the minimum wage.”

The campus is not planning on cutting budgets yet. The present budget is being compared to present figures to see what has been allocated thus far and what is currently falling under a surplus. Areas like the Federal Work Study program, which will also be affected by the new increase, is estimated to run at a surplus for the year. The extra money from this program may be diverted to help offset the budget shortfall.

Efficiency in the present departments is also being looked at. Ron Olinger, vice president for financial planning and administration, said “We are asking those departments to take a look at the hours worked and to make sure we are using those hours efficiently. We are asking each vice president to look at his departments and units that work under them and determine if those units are going to spend all of their student employment dollars… and then reallocating to departments that might need them.” Olinger then went on to emphasize that the budget is not being culled so much as it is being reviewed to see where changes can be made.

There is also a reserve fund that could be tapped to help overcome this budget increase but according to Wilson this is not an option that is currently being discussed, nor does it appear to be one to be looked at it.

Because of an already large unforeseen increase to the budget workers who presently make over the new minimum wage may not see new anytime soon. Olinger said that “At this time, we have asked students who are already making at or above minimum wage not be given additional raises… until we can assess the whole impact made.”

Wilson also said that this was not a major issue or a morale problem and he openly encourages students to come discuss the matter with him. As it stands on campus, the largest possible raise a student could receive is 25 cents however a typical campus raise is around 10 cents.

“People probably do not tie their sense of worth on campus to whether or not they were able to get a raise. I fully appreciate the work students do on campus and some students may be able to get a raise. As soon as we are able to budget for it I am more than happy to do that.”

Wilson also said that the new minimum wage increase will help students in the long run.

“We are talking about a minimum raise that hadn’t been raised in a decade. I think the adjustment period may be a little rougher for those at that line. Overall it is good for the economy and will be good for students.”

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