Minimum wage and college make getting by difficult
The current minimum wage in the state of Illinois is $8.25 per hour for those who are 18 years of age or older. Minimum wage in Illinois is about $1.07 less than the highest minimum wage in the country, Washington State at $9.32.
The big question however is, can a person live off of minimum wage alone working a 40 hour work week?
A person being paid minimum wage would make about $330 per week working eight hours, five days a week. This would mean a monthly earning of about $1320.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, had the minimum wage kept pace with inflation since 1968, today it would be over $10.65 – more than $2 higher than today’s minimum wage.
Sandy Spencer, Director of the Career Center, said that each semester Parkland College employs around 200 students at the rate of minimum wage. Every department at Parkland employs student workers in some capacity.
“Minimum wage is definitely not enough to pay bills or live on. A part-time student employment position can be helpful in supplementing income, to give students some extra spending money, but definitely not enough to live on,” Spencer remarked.
Parkland College policy dictates that the maximum number of hours part-time workers can clock is 19 per week. Student workers at Parkland would typically be working another job as well if they are trying to meet the living costs.
“Sometimes their parents pay for bills, sometimes the students themselves are paying for everything, and the high costs of living do put many students in the position where they have to work a part time job, and a full time job. Sometimes they even have 3 jobs, which is too much if they are trying to be a full time student as well,” Spencer said
This may be one of the reasons that Parkland is made up of almost 63 percent part-time students, as students can’t afford to spend all that time studying when they need to be out there making money. At the end of the day that’s what is going to pay the bills.
Most entry level jobs paying minimum wage to workers without any professional degrees actually create a barrier for the students working towards a college degree because they end up over working. There is data that shows that if students work over 20 hours a semester while going to school then it’s often too much and it does affect their GPA in a negative way.
“On the other hand there is also data that shows that if students are working part-time, especially on campus, while going to school then it helps them increase their GPA. As this helps them stay more focused and connects them to college life,” Spencer stated.
Annette Huss, Student Assistant in the Admissions Office, said she works 19 hours a week at Parkland, in addition to being a full time student with 14 credit hours.
“Minimum wage back in 1997, when I used to work at Colwell Systems, was about $5.35 per hour. It is more now but everything else is so much more expensive. I am fortunate enough to have a husband that makes good money, but I know people who have to work two full time jobs because they can’t make enough money,” Huss explained.
“It’s either you work and you eat or you don’t work and you don’t eat. There is no one to help you if things don’t work out. The whole state of Illinois is a mess,” Huss continued. Huss believes that minimum wage being raised to $10.56 per hour would be a good thing and should be at least that much, although it would still be difficult for minimum wage earners to get by.
Kylie Michaels, student worker at the Parkland College Bookstore, is a Nursing major with a very tight schedule. Michaels work includes 40 hours a week spent at Christi Clinic, 19 hours at the bookstore, and seven credit hours of study on top of that. All that together makes for a really hectic week.
“I live on my own, pay all my bills; I obviously have two jobs so of course minimum wage for student workers isn’t enough. As long as I manage my time well I can get by but there definitely is no time for myself,” Michaels said.
Yet Michaels was of the opinion that minimum wage increasing wouldn’t do anyone much good either because, in her opinion, everything else would go up instantly, and the cost of living would only increase more.
Where Huss expressed her dissatisfaction with the state programs like the Food Stamps, Medicaid, and TANF, Michaels stated that these programs do try to genuinely help low income families and workers, provided they are not abused and taken advantage of by people who don’t actually qualify for the assistance.
Student worker, Justin Garbutt, works as the bookstore cashier at Parkland.
“I would definitely like to see the minimum wage increased. It would make the dollars add up a little faster. Something as small as two dollars can make a profound difference for minimum wage workers,” Garbutt stated.
Students looking for jobs can take advantage of the resources provided by Parkland College. The Career Center is a great place for those who are undecided about their majors and can’t figure out which road to embark on once their college education is complete.
Businesses from all over the town place job ads with the career center, and all Parkland College departments hiring student workers also post jobs in the career center. The jobs listings are updated every day and are also available online.
Spencer explained that the goal of the Career Center was to help students succeed later in life. That’s why the office offers help with resume building, interview sills and job searches. According to Spencer, last year alone the Career Center posted over 2,000 job listings for students.
“We are helping students get the kind of skills they need in order to go out there and get a job and that eventually is what’s going to pay for the living costs,” Spencer explained.
Parkland College can’t do much about increasing the minimum wage or making living standards better, what it does do however is provide a cordial and accommodating environment for student workers. By giving students the best possible chance and the resources to figure out what career path they want to take later in life, Parkland does it’s part in making life better for many students.
If you would like more information on the Career Center, visit their office in U238, or go online to http://www.parkland.edu/careercenter/.