Student worker survey to advocate for increased campus minimum wage

The MSA survey found 79 percent of student workers on the Twin Cities campus had an on-campus job to pay for tuition, food or rent.

Sociology senior Kali Suchy works on updating computer software at the CLA Language Center in Jones Hall on Friday, Sept. 28 on East Bank. Suchy has been working at the CLA Language Center through a work study program since her freshman year.

Courtney Deutz

Sociology senior Kali Suchy works on updating computer software at the CLA Language Center in Jones Hall on Friday, Sept. 28 on East Bank. Suchy has been working at the CLA Language Center through a work study program since her freshman year.

Niamh Coomey

As the Minneapolis minimum wage continues increasing to $15 per hour, the Minnesota Student Association keeps pushing for a higher minimum wage for student workers on the University of Minnesota campuses. 

MSA sent out a survey last month to collect data about student workers with the intent of showing administration the need to raise campus minimum wage. Campus minimum wage is currently $9.86 per hour. Student employment is sometimes considered a form of financial aid, not a living wage. After receiving pushback from administration on their request to increase the minimum wage last semester, MSA gathered more data and student stories to back up their request. MSA plans to present the information to University administration in the coming year. 

The survey, which had 963 responses from student workers on the Twin Cities campus, found that 79 percent of the student workers surveyed had an on-campus job to pay for tuition, food or rent. More than 60 percent of survey respondents had an on-campus job to earn additional spending money, while 45 percent had a job to gain relevant work experience. 

Amy Ma, the representative to the Student Senate Consultative Committee, said some voices often get lost in standardized surveys. MSA has additionally been collecting personal stories from student workers.

Ma said she hopes the survey and stories will paint a full picture of what it means to be a student worker on campus and convince administration of the necessity to raise minimum wage. 

”I hope that going through all of these steps really helps legitimize our information,” Ma said. “Having the hard information and evidence to back up what we are hoping to do will just bring more recognition and provide a stronger argument.”

Despite the administration’s negative response, Ma said student government has had a strong partnership with them throughout the research process. MSA and the Student Senate have collaborated with Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson, the Office of Measurement Services and the Office for Student Affairs to construct the survey.

Ma noted that many students have to work long hours or multiple jobs to support themselves, sometimes making life at the University difficult. 

“This is what keeps them from being able to do things like hold leadership positions, participate in student organizations or even get adequate accessible food,” she said. 

The survey found that students said they would choose an on-campus job for flexibility and location, but an off-campus job for higher compensation.

College of Liberal Arts Student Senator Cassidy Drummond currently works three on-campus jobs in order to support herself, and noted many of the drawbacks of working so frequently, such as missing out on opportunities on campus. 

Ma and Drummond noted the challenges facing international students, who are only allowed to work on-campus jobs due to restrictions in their visas. 

Computer science student Anya Anderson works at the Coffman Union technology help desk. She said she has the job for the flexibility and to gain experience in her field, which is difficult to get as a student. 

“They’re pretty understanding about student schedules and it’s something that’s related to my field which is a little bit difficult to get with computer science when you haven’t taken courses to a certain level,” she said. 

Ma said survey results will continue to be analyzed over the summer and will continue on into the next semester.