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Governor Quinn proposes minimum wage increase

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 19:02

image State Minimum Wage Increase illustration Alisha Kirkley

Graphic by Alisha Kirkley/Prospectus News

A proposed increase in minimum wage could affect students working and going to school, as well as budgeting at colleges employing minimum wage workers Feb. 26, 2013.

At the recent State of the State address, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proposed that the state’s minimum wage be raised to $10 an hour.

Illinois’ current minimum wage is $8.25. Though it is fourth highest in the country, in the eyes of some, it is not enough to climb over the poverty wall.

“Nobody in Illinois should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty,” Gov. Quinn said in his State of the State speech.

Full time employees in Illinois, on average, are considered poverty-stricken. Couple that with the $7 billion or so that the state has in debt, and you have a real economic crisis.

Gov. Quinn’s hope is that over the next four years the minimum wage increase will take effect. In theory, this will increase consumer spending while boosting the state’s economy. It will lift those same full time employees over the poverty line as well as pay off a chunk of the massive debt accumulated.

How does this affect students?

“Student employment goes along with the minimum wage,” Director of Career Center Sandy Spencer said. “If wages go up to $10 then student employment wages will go up to $10 an hour.”

That extra $1.75 would be a welcome increase to the student population.

“Honestly I think that if they raised the wages up to $10, it would be good especially for students,” Kharri Rancifer said.

Rancifer is a business major and plans to apply for a campus job after his basketball season ends.

“Students are here trying to work, pay for school, pay for their apartments and all this other stuff so if you raise the minimum wage it would help the students out more,” he said.

Raising that minimum wage, Rancifer also pointed out, would lessen the work load of students who work full time jobs. That would free up a lot more time for studies.

 “Campus jobs seem to be more flexible and less demanding because they understand that our primary job is being a student,” Chemistry major Taylor Jones said.

“We students barely have time to sleep, let alone work crazy hours just to keep money in our pockets,” Jones said.

Jones’ assessment, for the most part, is accurate in terms of demand from campus. That flexibility along with the possibility of an increase in minimum wage makes campus job hot commodities.

This isn’t necessarily a positive. The maximum amount of hours students can work is 19 per week. That, of course, is at the current wage rate of $8.25.

Individual departments could face difficulties if minimum wage increases.

“They might have to cut some of the hours the students can work because there is a budgeting issue,” Spencer explained.

“They’d still be able to work 19 hours a week. It’s going to depend on the department and how much is in the department’s budget,” she said. “All the departments have different types of budgets, student employment budget being one. Some departments have a lot more money they can spend for student employment than others.”

An increase wouldn’t necessarily affect all departments. For those that are financially challenged, however, cutbacks in the form of student employees or their hours worked would have to be made. There is another pressing issue that would force such a move.

Parkland has a number of students who receive funding in the form of work study. The amount varies but is usually in the range of $1,500-$2,500 per semester.

“Usually student employees are allocated a certain amount of money for the semester,” Spencer said. That amount of money is the cap. Students cannot earn more than the figure calculated for their work study. Raising the wage from $8.25 presents a dilemma.

“They’ll still be able to get the same amount of money, might just have to spread it out a little bit further,” Spencer explained. “With federal work study, because it’s not coming from the department it’s coming from the government then they are just going to run through their money quicker.”

Students who exhaust their funds quicker because of an increase in minimum wage will have to stop working their student jobs before semester’s end. Consequently, the salaried employees will have to increase their work load.

In such a case, Spencer insists that precautionary measures must be taken by each department to ensure quality performance is still attained.

Regardless of such concerns, positive response has been generated since the discussion of a possible minimum wage increase arose. Though still in infant stages, supporters of this proposal say that it could boost student involvement on campus through employment as well as boost the state’s economy as a whole.

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