Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Department of Labor announced that New York state’s minimum wage would increase from $7.25 to $8 an hour, a shift that directly impacts student workers at Ithaca College.
The minimum wage in New York state had remained stagnant since July 2009, when the federal minimum wage rose to $7.25 an hour from $7.15. At the end of last year, the minimum wage in New York state rose to $8 per hour after state legislators passed a bill in March 2013.
Only student employees will be impacted by the 75-cent increase in minimum wage because faculty and staff are already paid above the minimum wage, Gerald Hector, vice president of finance and administration, said.
“We’re paying [faculty and staff] closer to what’s called a ‘living wage’,” Hector said. “I don’t foresee any plans to be moving hourly rates because the minimum wage went up — we were already paying competitively above that.”
The college is currently working through the rate change in the annual budget, but it will not have to make any changes or additions to the budget at this time because there is already a pool of funds that can cover the 75-cent increase in student wages, Hector said. The amount of money in the fund depends on how many students are working and how much leftover remains when students are unable to work shifts.
“Sometimes students will get jobs and won’t work,” he said. “Students sign up for a job, and then, because of workload and classes, they can’t work the hours.”
Junior Dana Janovsky, a student manager at Campus Center Dining Hall, said she supports the minimum wage increase and is happy about the raise because she could put the additional money toward school expenses.
“As a college student, I can use the money for books and other extra things,” Janovsky said. “This is the most I’ve been paid in my entire life — I’ve never been paid more than $7.50.”
In last year’s State of the State Address on Jan. 9, 2013, Governor Cuomo set out a plan to raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 to help revive the economy. The raise to $8 occurred Dec. 31 2013, and the state will increase the minimum wage again to $8.75 effective Dec. 31 2014.
“The current minimum wage is unlivable,” Cuomo said. “It’s only $14,616 [per year]. Nineteen other states have raised the minimum wage.”
For sophomore Erika Bucior, who has two on-campus jobs, the minimum wage increase means she will make $10 more a week while still working the same number of hours. Bucior works as an Eco-Rep for the Resource and Environmental Management Program and as a sustainability intern for Sodexo.
Bucior said she doesn’t know if the increased minimum wage was a good or bad idea, and the outcome depends on the movement of the financial market.
“If the cost of living stays the same and prices do not rise, then I think the raise will help empower a lot of people and possibly improve their life,” she said. “But if the markets respond to the wage increase by raising prices, then it really does no good.”