Minimum wage debate means GVSU students may get a raise

Obama backs proposal for $10.10 an hour

By Peter Chhum | 2/12/14 6:24pm

A proposal to raise federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour recently received support from President Barack Obama.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (R-California) originally proposed the legislation in 2013, but the recent support of the president may help rally additional backing as the Senate takes up the proposition in coming weeks.

Minimum wage in Michigan is currently set at $7.40 an hour. If the proposal were to be approved, it would mean a raise for about 3,000 Grand Valley State University student workers.

On the last student payroll, there were a total of 3,105 workers. Of that total, 980 were paid at the state minimum wage, while 2,125 earned more than the state’s standard.

Jeff Musser, the assistant vice president for University Budgets, said GVSU sets money aside annually to compensate student employees. The money is budgeted at the department level, and department managers can spend it as they see fit, he said.

“They don’t all have to be minimum wage students,” Musser said. “Departments need the flexibility to offer wage increases in order to retain qualified student employees.”

Senior Mercedes Robinson works in the GVSU Women’s Center and welcomes a raise in her minimum wage salary, as long as it comes without inflation as a side effect.

“If there is a raise in minimum wage and there’s a raise in gas prices as well as everyday necessities, it would negate the increase in pay,” Robinson said.

Like many other college students, Robinson juggles the stresses of being a full time student with the list of bills delivered to her mailbox daily.

“As a student I can only work so many hours,” she said. “Right now I’m working 20 hours a week and have to pay rent, utilities, gas and food. Everything added up, with how much I get paid, is barely feasible.”

Senior Anthony Brown hopes the proposal comes to fruition as he believes it can help students with their future, not just with current expenses.

“The problem for a lot of us is savings,” Brown said. “I barely have a savings account because whatever I make already is going to get spent. It puts us at a disadvantage because the only way to make more is pick up more hours, but that hinders our academics just trying to stay afloat trying to graduate.”

Musser said the university is prepared for the extra costs should the proposal to raise minimum wage be approved.

“If there is a change in the minimum wage law, GVSU will analyze the university student wage budgets to make adjustments as needed,” he said. “Student employees are a high priority for the university. Historically what has happened is more funds are allocated to that part of the budget, not a decrease in employees.”

Luis Lozano, assistant director of the Student Employment Office, shares Musser’s sentiments about budget flexibility.

“Based on our college budget, the wage can be stretched out,” Lozano said. “We allow departments to have the flexibility to pay the student with wages that range from $7.40 up to as high as $15.00.”

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