The Office of Human Resources announced Jan. 24 that Northwest student employees’ wages increased to align with the new Missouri minimum wage.
The statewide minimum wage increase for all private, non-exempt businesses took effect Jan. 1, which did not require public universities to make the change, but the Northwest leadership team decided to increase all student employee wages.
All wages increased by the 75 cents that the Missouri minimum wage increased by across all four pay levels.
Senior Human Resources Generalist Paula McClain said the biggest factor in the decision was the value of student employees on campus.
“We wanted to make sure our students know we value and appreciate what it is that they’re doing for the University,” McClain said. “We know that we can’t survive without them. There are 950 students that work on this campus, and they make up for about 230 full-time employees we would have to go out and hire if we didn’t have them.”
McClain said student employees are not only a necessity, but they’re also uniquely valuable in a number of areas.
“They play a key role in our research, education and operational excellence here at Northwest,” McClain said.
Freshman Ashleigh Erickson said she is in favor of the increase because wages should keep up with the cost of living.
“Other states are raising minimum wage, and their economies are just fine,” Erickson said. “Missouri's minimum wage increase is not the end of the world. We're not all going to be suddenly paying $15 for a $1 gallon of milk.”
Although the increase is small, Erickson said she appreciates the small amount of extra income.
“My second job on campus as a studio tech is a minimum wage job, but I'm now working at the wage rate I was working at when I was 16 working at Worlds of Fun for the summer,” Erickson said. “All in all, I'm making more money at each job now than I was last semester. It'll be nice to see bigger paychecks once I actually get paid.”
Vice President of Finance Nola Bond said another factor in deciding to increase wages was staying competitive with other local employers.
Since Northwest works with students’ schedules on work hours, it offers flexibility in addition to affordability. Bond said Northwest student employees also have higher retention and graduation rates, so it’s important to the leadership team that students can keep these benefits without sacrificing affordability.
“Because we know that it’s important to our students, we want to make sure we’re competitive in the Maryville area,” Bond said. “So we made the decision to have the first round of increases go into effect this year, and then talk with Student Senate about how to handle increases over time.”
In order to pay for the wage increase for this year, McClain said hours are being reduced for some positions.
Freshman Maddy Benda is a student ambassador and said students are no longer paid for hours when they are not giving tours.
“We just have to leave when there are no tours or nothing that needs to be done, w can be frustrating when I need the money,” Benda said. “We typically work five hours a week, which isn't a lot, but when it gets cut down to even less than that, it's hard considering most of us have other bills to pay.”
Bond said one of the sources that pay student employees is student fees, and looking forward, decisions made on how to afford wage increases for all student employees as the minimum wage continues to rise will be made in conjunction with Student Senate.
The leadership team will have its first meeting with Student Senate this month.