Recently, the University of Minnesota's Student Senate launched a year-long campaign to increase student minimum wage. By aiming to increase the wage to $11.25 an hour, the current minimum wage for Minneapolis, Student Senate members hopes to alleviate financial burdens for many students who juggle academics, jobs and extracurricular activities. We are in favor of the increase, as student workers deserve a sense of financial security, especially given recent tuition raises, in-state and beyond.
Minneapolis enacted its minimum wage ordinance in 2017, which currently sets the minimum wage at $11.25 per hour for large businesses. This wage will gradually increase to $15 per hour for all businesses over the next several years.
However, under current state law, the University’s minimum wage is $9.65 per hour. This is because the University is bound by state law and therefore does not need to follow city regulations.
Furthermore, Student Senate members say the student wage is less than the wage non-students receive for the same employment. Matt Kramer, vice president of university and government relations, said that student employment is a form of financial aid. And, according to Kramer, by raising the University minimum wage, the number of hours or available positions would be reduced.
Nearly two years ago, Coffman Union saw the first public demonstration in recent memory fighting for an increased wage for student workers. Since then, a group known as 15 for Student Workers has aimed to increase the University’s minimum wage to reflect that of Minneapolis'. The group has engaged discussion with University officials and the Board of Regents, as well as held public demonstrations to gain support.
The University is not alone in the wage struggle. The neighboring city of St. Paul is working towards enacting a $15 minimum wage ordinance. Although St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter made a statement in April saying the city will adopt a $15 minimum wage, nothing has been enacted.
The University must realize that students are not employed to merely pay tuition. Many student workers use their income to pay rent, purchase groceries and other life necessities — not all students receive outside support that these costs often require. While the flexibility of student employment position is significantly higher than that of a non-University employer, students need higher pay — not only to be able to afford tuition in the spring or fall semesters, but to address day-to-day expenses, as well.
We support the Student Senate's continued work that encourages the University to match its minimum wage to that of Minneapolis'. Not only are students looking to use their income to pay tuition, but the income is also used to sustain life. It's a nearly impossible task for students to manage their academics and extracurriculars, all while trying to make a high enough wage to pay tuition. Student workers deserve a livable and higher wage, not the bare minimum.