Northwest does not decide to raise student minimum wage as state's continues to increase
I wrote this article and created the accompanying infographic for a class in March 2020 .
The University has not decided to raise the minimum wage for student employees, even though the state minimum wage increased. The Northwest Leadership Team and Student Senate will continue having discussions about raising it as the wage for all private, non-exempt businesses rises every year until 2023.
The public minimum wages will increase 85 cents each year until it reaches $12 in 2023 after Missouri voters passed proposition B in November 2018. The University is exempt from making the minimum wage increase through the Missouri Revised Statutes Section 290.500 (3), RSMo, provided by the Missouri Division of Labor Standards.
Student Senate decided not to vote on raising the minimum wage this year after University Police Chief Clarence Green said raising it would either require the University to cut student positions and hours or add $1.80 per credit hour to the designated fees each enrolled student pays. He said students could end up paying hundreds of dollars in fees if the fee increases every time the minimum wage increases, according to a 2019 article in the Northwest Missourian.
Senior Human Resources Generalist and Coordinator of Student Employment Paula McLain said the seven decision-making administrators that make up the leadership team, including President John Jasinski, always bring budget discussions to Student Senate to ensure student involvement in decisions that affect all students.
“We have been doing that for several years now because it’s important that the students are involved in that process, and we’ll continue to do that on an annual basis,” McLain said. “It really comes down to the leaders and the Student Senate working together with those decisions.”
How students are affected
Senior Nayeon Lee has worked as a library assistant for four semesters. She said she would like to earn more than $8.60 an hour but not if the cost of attending Northwest increases as well because it’s already high as an international student.
“I don’t know about the other international students, but most of the Korean students, their tuition, their living fee is all coming from their parents,” Lee said. “It’s like common to ask your parents to financially help you, but at the same time, the reason why I work is because I feel burden to my parents and I don’t want to be like that.”
About 950 students are employed on campus, outnumbering faculty and staff. McLain said about a third of working students earn work-study dollars from the federal government. The amount had not changed in the 19 years McLain had worked at Northwest until there was a small increase in 2019.
“It went up, just mid-year, like maybe $2,000,” McLain said. “It was a surprise but again, it wasn’t much. When you’re using the same dollars over and over and minimum wage is increasing, it just doesn’t go very far.”
The complex budget
After Student Senate chose not to raise the minimum wage, the leadership team compared its options. Jessica Henry, executive secretary to the vice president of finance and administration, said the leaders evaluate various factors including state appropriations, tuition and fees, strategic investments, investments in people and mandatory expense increases such as health, retirement and utilities. She said they decided against the fee increase in an effort to sustain affordability.
McLain added that the budget is very complex. Student hours had to be cut in 2019 when the leadership team chose to increase the minimum wage.
“Having the funds to be able to support an increase is critical,” McLain said. “Student labor comes from a lot of different areas like the federal government, institutional dollars, designated fees, etc. … Obviously, in order to do an increase for any employee, you’ve got to have the money to do it.”
Student employment wages are paid in part by the designated fees for Student Programming, according to the Student Senate website. McLain said she does not know how many hours would be cut if minimum wage increased without increasing the designated fees.
“It’s going to depend on the wage at the time and the amount of dollars needed in order to do that,” McLain said. “It’s a very detailed analysis, so it would be hard to say right now, not knowing what the amount of increase would be determined by the University.”
She said the leadership team could potentially decide to raise the minimum wage for student employees but still keep it less than the wage for private businesses at $9.45.
McLain said it is difficult for the leadership team to budget for a pay increase in advance because many factors are involved and some crucial details are unknown until a certain time.
“We’re annually informed about the federal piece, so we can make the assumption it’s not going to change,” McLain said. “But it could so then you’ve got to reevaluate at that point. … That’s why it’s so difficult to predict or ascertain. If I stopped today and did an analysis, it may be different than if I stopped to do it three months from now.”
Opportunities in student employment
Most positions earn $8.60 an hour, but the wage can start at $8.70, $9.00 or $9.50 an hour, depending on the job descriptions and qualifications. One-third of the positions are office assistants. Other jobs include library assistant, tutor, sports official, farm assistant, on-air announcer and lab assistant. As the job gets more technical, the starting pay increases.
Both McLain and Henry said student employment can stay competitive with off-campus jobs without raising the minimum wage because of the various benefits of working on campus.
“The value of an on-campus job is student-first focus, flexibility of scheduling with classes, professional-based learning opportunities, career pathing and FICA tax exemption,” Henry said.
The Career Pathing Program provides student employees the opportunity for a 25% wage increase each year that is applicable and transferable to all jobs on campus. To earn the increase, students must attend three of the eight developmental sessions offered per semester for both the fall and spring semester and have a satisfactory performance evaluation from their supervisor.
McLain said she encourages students to participate in the program because they get paid for the hours they use to attend the event and it helps them build relationships in the workforce. She said that if students participate in the Career Pathing Program, starting by earning $8.60 per hour as a freshman, and work every single hour they are allowed – 20 hours a week during the semester and 40 hours a week during breaks – they can earn a total of more than $46,000 by the end of their senior year.
“That’s pretty extreme, but even if you did half of that, that’s a lot of money to help pay towards tuition,” McLain said. “On average, students work about 10 hours a week.”
Lee said she usually gets scheduled six hours a week. The maximum she’ll work is 12 hours. She would not support a wage increase if it meant she would work fewer hours.
“They don’t give me enough hours,” Lee said. “If you want those 20 hours, you need to have like two or three different jobs, and I don’t think I can handle that. I would rather have 20 hours from the same student employee job.”
McLain said only 12-15% of student employees complete the Career Pathing Program requirements each year. Part of this is because 40% of the student employees are seniors and won’t benefit from the pay increase. The numbers also only count those who attended the six required sessions, leaving out the students who attended four or five events.
Henry said the public minimum wage is evaluated every year in the budgeting process. McLain said the leadership team will need to have a thorough analysis every time to determine whether or not to increase the minimum wage.
Lee said that changing when she gets paid would be beneficial, even if the pay didn’t increase, because the time she receives her paycheck is what impacts her most.
“We get paid per month, and it’s also really – I wouldn’t say stupid – but it’s really weird because you get paid on the 25th of the next month,” Lee said. “It feels like they’re paying you like two months later. … It would be better if pay us like the first week of the new month.”
McLain can’t predict whether or not the University will accommodate future pay increases as the minimum wage for public businesses continues to increase.
“It really comes down to the complex budget and doing analysis and the leaders and in the Student Senate, so I don’t know what it looks like for the future,” McLain said.
College media adapt to online-only formats
While universities across the country have suspended in-person classes to limit the spread of COVID-19, the future for student newspapers remains unknown because being online-only until physical classes resume could create long-term changes.
Major budget differences between two universities in Northwest Missouri
Missouri Western has had a $10 million spending deficit while Northwest has made more than $12 million in excess revenue in the last three years, according to their respective budget reports. One factor that contributes to Northwest’s revenue is that it made over $4.5 million more in tuition and fees during the fiscal year 2019 than it did in 2018.
Top three STDs clapback with highest number of diagnoses in age of hookup culture, awareness
The number of sexually transmitted disease cases across the nation is at an unprecedented high. Nearly half of the 20 million new STD diagnoses made each year are among ages 15-24.