Student workers want $15 per hour

'It is unacceptable that any student should be forced to choose between academic success and survival'

At nearly 20 schools, student workers are campaigning for a $15 minimum wage, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Lydia DePillis report for the Washington Post.

"Tuition, housing, textbooks are increasing in price while student wages have largely stayed stagnant," says Beth Huang, Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) coordinator for Jobs with Justice.

Can a summer job pay for college? It used to.

The trend comes alongside other higher education groups looking to organize for higher compensation: adjuncts, graduate student teaching assistants, facility workers, and student athletes.

Forty percent of full-time undergraduates in 2013 also worked a job, mostly part-time positions that required fewer than 34 hours per week. And just 8% of students actually work on campus, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Under the cost-sharing agreement with the federal government, colleges must pay students at least the federal minimum wage, $7.25 per hour.

The University of Washington recently agreed to raise its wage floor to $15, following months of student protests urging the state school to follow Seattle's minimum wage law.

"We did the analytics, figured out the cost impact and decided this was in the interest of our staff and student workers. We didn't want to be out of step with the rest of the city," says Norman Arkans, a school spokesperson.

Increasing the wage floor will cost the school an estimated $7.9 million in 2017. Student workers will account for $6.7 million of that.

However, because federal work-study funds are awarded based on need, students will not earn more than they did before. It will just take them less time to earn their designated amount.

"This gives students the advantage of spending more time studying, not working," Arkans says.

In that same vein, Columbia University students are lobbying the institution to apply work-study money to more jobs, such as time-intensive extracurricular activities or off-campus, unpaid internships that prepare them for life after graduation.

"We do not have the time or money to access the same academic, extracurricular, and professional opportunities as other students," says a petition by the students. "It is unacceptable that any student should be forced to choose between academic success and survival" (Douglas-Gabriel/DePillis, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 10/19).

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