A widely recognized issue on campus is that of the disparity between DC minimum wage and the wage paid to student workers. The District’s $11.50 per hour towers high over the university’s $8.25. Many students wonder if the university has taken their rights as a “private institution” too far. From the administration’s perspective, the ultimatum is this: raise the student wage while cutting down student positions, or keep the pay low while hiring more students.
However, as student workers, we haven’t been given the option to choose or even have our input considered by the administration. But as it happens, we have some pretty solid reasons to support the move from the CUA standard to the DC standard.
Our student employees earning below minimum wage are more likely to seek out multiple on-campus jobs in order to support their financial needs. If wages were raised then people would only need to work one job and that would enable more students to apply for a variety of positions. In this manner, if student wage was raised there would be fewer jobs on campus but students would also be less inclined to hold multiple jobs.
Would the university prefer that students turn away from on-campus employment in order to seek out higher paying jobs elsewhere in the city? Can they support a system in which certain positions go unfulfilled because they are less incentivized?
For this issue to be fully discussed, all sides must be examined and we as students must establish our priorities. The question isn’t simply should we paid more, it’s should we have fewer jobs opportunities with more competitive wages. Are we comfortable taking the risk of being one of the students fired from their job in order to make room in the budget for wage increase?
Although the university reserves rights, as a private institution, to pay its students far below minimum wage, we believe that the administration should value the work of students a little bit more and compensate student employees more fairly for their work.