As economic recovery continues, states across the nation are considering raising their minimum wage. Thirteen states have considered raising the minimum wage this year, while nine states already have experienced automatic hikes in their minimum wage ranging from 10 to 35 cents.
But the possibility of such a wage hike may not be important to some college students, who often take into account other factors when taking on a job.
The federal minimum wage has been gradually increased from $1.60 in 1968 to today’s minimum of $7.25, where it has sat since it was raised from $5.15 in 2009.
Yet the National Employment Law Project released a December report showing that although the federal minimum wage has risen over the past several decades, its purchasing power has decreased due to inflation: if it had kept pace with a climbing cost of living, the $1.60 minimum wage in 1968 would be worth $10.58 in today’s dollars.
Proponents of a higher minimum wage, like the Raise the Minimum Wage campaign, argue that more money in the pockets of low-skilled workers would result in higher consumer spending, helping to fuel a tepid economic recovery.
Those against a minimum-wage hike cite studies like those from the Employment Policy Institute, that have found that a higher minimum wage does little to help those in poverty — often going straight to teenagers — and could potentially reduce demand for low-skilled workers.
In some cases, students must work a job, either on or off campus, as the work-study contribution to their financial-aid package.
This is the case for Yale University junior Chase Ross, of Omaha, who said that his financial aid package includes a student contribution. A rise in the wage of his on campus job, he explained, could help him earn his student contribution more quickly.
But in other cases, students just want a little bit of extra spending money.
This was the case for Rice University sophomore Colin Roberts, of Kirkland, Wash., who said he began working his student job for some disposable income.
Rice University, like many schools across the country, does not set its own minimum wage, instead paying student workers at least the federal minimum of $7.25, which is also the minimum wage of Rice’s home state of Texas.
Other schools, though, offer students a better wage than they could receive otherwise.
Yale — located in Connecticut where the minimum wage is $8.25, $1 more than the federal minimum wage — promises its students a minimum wage of $12 for on-campus jobs.
Larry Huynh, a Yale junior from Spring, Texas, who works as a student technician, said that he applied for his job due to the disposable income as well as the experience it offered.
Yale freshman Isaac Stanley-Becker of Chicago, who does not have a job, said that he would be interested in having a job on campus, particularly given the high minimum wage, but explained that he has focused primarily on his classes.
The work-school balance was also difficult for University of Washington junior Joon Yi, of Bothell, Wash., who said she had to cut back the time she spent working for her university’s newspaper after her grades suffered. She added that she began working for the newspaper not for the money, but for the community and enjoyment the job provided.
“I’m not [working] because it pays, I’m doing it and it happens to pay,” Yi said.
Yi, who also works as a minimum-wage waitress off campus, said that an increase in the minimum wage would not greatly affect her, as a large portion of her income from her second job comes in the form of tips.
Washington state is home to the highest minimum wage in the nation, with an automatic increase of 15 cents to a $9.19 minimum wage at the start of this year.
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