As prices go up and wages stay constant, one group of students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is trying to raise the university’s minimum wage to help both its students and the institution itself.
Towards the end of the 2019 fall semester, UL Lafayette’s student government association created a committee to oversee the research into what kind of impacts a raise would have.
“We’re just accumulating evidence and trying to present it to convince the administration that student pay is necessary and possible,” Rex Jones, the president of the graduate school college of SGA, said.
“There are concerns attached to raising student pay, some very valid concerns in terms of budget constraints,” Jones said, “but again we’re just hoping to present the information to the administration through this very formal SGA channel and hear the response.”
Jones originally brought forth the resolution to SGA that would make student pay a priority, which was passed unanimously.
Jones said he became interested in pursuing this goal while he was working in the undergrad admissions office. One of his coworkers was talking to him about how excited she’d been to buy tennis shoes on sale for $30, and when they calculated how much work that was, it came out to about a third of a week’s paycheck.
One example Jones gave was that, for Louisiana Tech University, there is a system in place in which student workers receive a pay raise after one year of staying with the university.
“Other universities even in the state do prioritize student workers and student pay, so we’re hoping the University will respond in kind,” Jones said.
Louisiana does not have any minimum wage law, so citizens of Louisiana are entitled to no more than the federal minimum wage of 7.25. However, this rate has not changed since the federal minimum wage was last increased, which was back in July of 2009.
“From just observing our economy, the minimum wage is 7.25, but everything else around us has been increasing, and that’s one of our strongest points,” Shelby Richard, a member on the committee, said. “And for the university, raising pay would increase retention, and we do have the numbers for that.”
Another member of the committee, Mark Mallory, was able to explain this point further.
“When McDonald’s across the street pays more than your allegedly guaranteed federal student worker job on campus, then you’ve very likely to get a job elsewhere in town, hurting retention on campus, hurting institutional knowledge and all the benefits that long-term student workers provide to an institution,” Mallory said.
The committee had plans to bring this information to University President Joseph Savoie, Ph.D., but, with the spread of the novel coronavirus and the university’s cancellation of face-to-face classes, everyone involved had to take a minute to readjust and plan out how they will advance the proposal along without a majority of the student body constantly on campus.
Richard said she is hopeful COVID-19 won’t set the group back indefinitely despite the temporary difficulties.
“Right now as the administration is trying to figure out what to do about classes and advising and graduation, I think that would be their main priority,” Richard said. “However, I don’t believe that there would be a challenge for us to incite our change.”