College Students Hopeful for Higher Minimum Wage
A $15 minimum wage could soon become a reality if activists can get their platform up and off the ground after nine years of a stagnant $7.25 federal minimum wage.
For working college students supporting themselves, a higher minimum wage could mean less stress about finances and more time for studying and extracurricular activities.
To examine the impact of higher paying minimum wage jobs on worker pay and the effects on employment, a group of UC Berkeley researchers evaluated minimum wage workers in six cities that took the lead in raising the minimum wage above $10: Chicago, the District of Columbia, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle.
The report published in September, “The New Wave of Local Minimum Wage Policies: Evidence from Six Cities” shows an increase in worker pay and “no significant employment reductions.”
Less time working, more time studying
If the minimum wage increased and workers could work fewer hours, more time could be dedicated to studying and extracurriculars, according to Mariam Turner, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Turner said additional time for studying would have been helpful during her undergraduate career.
“The time I would have been able to spend studying had I not been working
According to the Department of Labor, 29 states plus the District of Columbia pay minimum wage workers more than the federal minimum with the District of Columbia holding the no.1 highest minimum wage at $13.50. Washington state is second at $11.50, and Massachusetts and California are tied for third at $11 per hour — though California has plans to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. Cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have already adopted minimum wages between $12-$15. In addition, nine other cities are working toward adopting the same minimum wage range.
While minimum wage workers in these three states earn close to the $15 minimum wage that activists are lobbying for, employees in 14 other
Expenses are costly and working is a way to keep up
According to the National Association of College Stores, textbook prices increased by nearly 40 percent from 2006 to 2016. An average textbook in 2016 cost $80.
“That’s the part that gets a little difficult,” said Camil Corcuera, a journalism senior at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA.
On an average week, she works 30 to 32 hours per week at an off-campus job for a $12-per-hour wage. As a financially independent, full-time undergraduate, Corcuera receives financial aid and a first-generation Hispanic student scholarship, which together, cover her full tuition — but even with the
Corcuera makes roughly $1,450 per month, which goes toward her $700 rent, utilities, car payment, insurance, groceries, and gas. Corcuera says raising the minimum wage to $15 would eliminate some of the stress at the end of the month when money is tight.
“If I had to fill up my car with gas, I could just fill it up instead of thinking maybe I won’t drive there because I don’t want to waste gas going there,” she said. “So all these thoughts you have to run through I think that $15 an hour would put
Working more for less has its trade-offs
Corcuera takes three courses per quarter, which is one
“Finding experience they expect you to have before getting into a job while you’re working a minimum wage job is the part I’m still trying to figure out,” Corcuera said. Like Turner, who had also wanted to participate in clubs and organizations, the time allocated to work comes at a price, less opportunity to become involved in personal interests or major-related organizations.
“I look back, and I think about all the things I could have done if I had a little more free time,” Turner said.
Even with a National Merit
Turner would make roughly $450 per month, and pay her half of the room each month, leaving about $100 or less leftover. She relied upon student loans to pay for her utilities and other expenses.
Some analysts criticize raising the minimum wage because an increase could lead to fewer available jobs and a larger income gap.
Turner thinks otherwise.
“I don’t think raising the minimum wage would cause a shortage of jobs or anything because the jobs will still exist,” she said. “You can’t just say, we’re paying people more now, we don’t need a barista, I don’t understand that argument.”
Additionally, Turner thinks that the income gap already exists, with students who have families who help them to pay for college and financially independent students who do not.
While raising the minimum wage would have effects across the economy, the impact that shift could have on student’s overall well-being seems