USUAA passes resolution to increase student employee wages

On Nov. 17, USUAA voted on a resolution that would propose a $1.30 increase in student employee wages throughout the University of Alaska system. With a vote of 12-1, the resolution was passed.

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Photo credit: Mariah DeJesus-Remaklus

Currently, the student employee wages are as follows:

  • $8.50 per hour for Student Assistant A
  • $9.50 per hour for Student Assistant B
  • $10.50 per hour for Student Assistant C

The increase would bring Student Assistant A, the lowest wage level, to the state minimum wage of $9.80, which was effective January of this year.

USUAA senator Teresa Wrobel wrote the resolution in hopes of eliminating the difference in wages, and she says that it will help students look for jobs on campus.

“There are so many other opportunities presented in Anchorage to have a job that it doesn’t make sense to be a student employee because you could easily go out and get a job that’s paying more,” Wrobel said.

Within the resolution, it’s stated that research has shown that, “student employment at a maximum of twenty hours can have a positive impact on GPA, community engagement and retention.”

Wrobel wants to encourage students to take the opportunity to become more involved with their university.

“It’s such a great opportunity… In the departments, you get office experience and they work around your hours and it’s just nice to be on campus to work,” Wrobel said. “There’s a lot of benefits of working on campus.”

Benjamin Dahl-Rouzan works as a student recruitment ambassador with UAA Student Affairs. This is his first job on campus and he’s come to appreciate the experience that he’s gained.

In his position, Dahl-Rouzan frequently participates in tours and events for prospective students.

“It kind of gives you the opportunity to make a lot of cool connections. Recently, we did the UA Scholars event so we got to talk to President [Jim] Johnsen and [Bruce] Schultz,” Dahl-Rouzan said. “It gives you cool experience in the community, too… You get to meet some people and see different perspectives.”

Dahl-Rouzan says that his wage is “manageable” while going to school, but with the amount of work he does, an increase would be valued.

“Being in college, any bit of money helps wherever you get it from, but it could be increased more with the amount of work that we have to do on top of school,” Dahl-Rouzan said.

Theresa Lyons is the executive director for Student Outreach and Transition, and she says that students who work on campus learn workplace skills and can have an advantage over others that do not gain work experience.

“They’re working in an environment where they get exposed to professionalism… They get exposed to people that lead the organization,” Lyons said. “I think it does open the door for opportunities for them.”

Although the federal minimum wage is much lower at $7.25, the university is not competing with the jobs offered outside of the system that pay much higher than even the state minimum.

Caleb Berry, USUAA senator, says that student employee wages have to be competitive.

“To incentivize students to work student jobs, what’s offered by the university has to be at least relatively competitive to what’s offered in the private market,” Berry said. “Let’s be real: this university doesn’t offer close to what you can get in the private market.”

Lyons does have a concern about USUAA proposing a wage increase and its timing with the University’s financial difficulties.

“The institution is not only cutting back, but they’re laying off lots of people,” Lyons said. “It may not be an issue, then I think about, ‘It could be an issue’ with so many layoffs and people doing several positions because there are so many vacancies.”

Wrobel recognizes the system’s budget crisis and says that the conversation around student wages had to happen.

“I mean, with all the financial issues going on, the last thing we’re really thinking about is student worker pay, but I’ve had several faculty say that they think now is a good time,” she said. “We have to do it — that’s part of our job, to bring forth student issues even if know there are budgetary issues.”

The resolution will be sent to members of the administration, such as UAA Interim Chancellor Sam Gingerich and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Bruce Schultz.

USUAA also hopes to connect with other student governments and eventually bring the proposal to the UA Board of Regents.