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Administration to increase student wages in the fall

FILE PHOTO: Grey Burnett, a sophomore English major, works in Westminster College’s Career Center on Oct. 5, 2017. Westminster College’s administration announced it would be increasing student wages starting in the Fall 2020 semester, setting the minimum at $8.50 an hour. (Hasib Hussainzada)

Students can expect to see an increase of the campus minimum wage starting in the Fall semester, according to an email sent out by President Beth Dobkin March 22. The lowest student wage will be set at $8.50 an hour, a jump from the current $7.25 which reflects the statewide minimum wage.

However, not all positions will see an increase in wages, President Dobkin said in an interview with The Forum. There will be different tiers so jobs are classified by job responsibility and degree of supervision — with some current jobs already organized in this way.

For those jobs that are already highly-skilled and set at higher wages, it is unlikely student workers will see increased wages in those areas.

“But certainly the ones who are paid the least will see an increase,” Dobkin said. “We don’t want anything paid less than [$8.50].”

As of right now, student employment works on a pay structure with three levels — ranging from $7.25 to $10 an hour based on responsibilities and experience in the position, according to Allie Shorkey, manager of Student Employment.

“The biggest concern that has been raised has been staying competitive with wages and the education around the invaluable life and careers skills one can take away from working on campus,” Shorkey said in an email.

The positions seeing this wage increase are those being paid minimum wage — which do not require prior experience. That’s the first level of the three-level pay structure.

The middle level holds the positions that require some experience, prior training or specific responsibilities. The highest-level positions typically require certifications in order to be hired for the position.

The pay structure and specific positions receiving an increase in wages will depend on where they fall in this three tier pay structure. Those in higher levels are less likely to see an increase, because the jobs already pay closer to the wage maximum.

The move would also shift some on-campus employment into what Dobkin calls “true internships,” according to the email sent out to students.

Dobkin said the administration has been working on ensuring the increase will work with the school’s budget, adding that it has been a priority on the agenda.

“Really, it’s because we want to be able to better elevate the work students do and connect it with the campus activity and academic programs,” Dobkin said.

Currently, Westminster College employs more than 550 students — investing over $1.6 million for on-campus jobs, according to the school’s website.

Dobkin said the move to increase student wages started last fall — “long before” the COVID-19 pandemic began. So, in a way it’s unrelated to the virus spread and will be unaffected by any economic downturn.

“It may seem like interesting timing now, just because we’ve got all other things to think about financially,” she said. “But I think it’s a high priority because it’s so helpful for students in so many ways.”

Much of the research came from looking at student success versus their connection to campus — finding that sense of connection to their school is much stronger when involved with campus employment. So, the school wanted to do “a better job” with that, Dobkin said.

Dobkin said the wage increase is “not directly” connected to the 8.5% tuition increase students can expect to see beginning in the Fall 2020 semester.

“They’re parallel, and we certainly want to do whatever we can to help students be able to manage the cost of coming to Westminster,” Dobkin said. “But there’s no direct relationship [between the tuition increase and student wages.]”

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Cami Mondeaux
Cami Mondeaux is a senior communication major with a minor in sociology. Passionate about journalism, Cami has worked in the field for three years – completing internships at KSL NewsRadio, KUER 90.1 NPR Utah and The Washington Diplomat in Washington, D.C. She now covers breaking news for KSL NewsRadio with a focus on the 2020 election. Cami is excited to bring her skills to The Forum for her second year as editor-in-chief.

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