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UMN Institute on the Environment raises student wages to $15.91

Effective on Jan. 3, the Institute on the Environment raised its undergraduate student wage from $11 an hour to $15.91
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) raised its undergraduate student worker’s minimum wage to $15.91 starting Jan. 3, to mirror livable wages of Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

“For over 20 students on staff, we went from $11 or $12/hr to $15.91/hr,” IonE Director of Administration April Snyder wrote in an email statement. “Ironically, we had one of our amazing undergrad students run the numbers to see what this budget impact would be for us.”

This change applies retroactively to both newly hired and already employed students, according to IonE Director Jessica Hellmann.

“I heard about [the wage increase] online right before Christmas,” Jacob Bechtold, a third-year student and IonE program assistant said. “It was honestly the best Christmas present I got this year. I was ecstatic.”

“The day that we decided to make our change, the College of Biological Sciences announced their change,” Hellmann said. “This sort of reaffirmed [to us] that this is a good move: other people across the University agree that this is important to support our students.”

According to Hellmann, the IonE decided to raise its undergraduate student wages for two reasons: to better support the students financially and to offer more competitive wages that will attract more student workers.

Due to the national labor shortage as a result of the pandemic, the offer of competitive wages is increasingly crucial for many Americans.

This change culminated in a time when college students across the country have been protesting for livable wages. As of Jan. 22, Ohio State students protested for an increase in wages to $15.

At the end of the fall semester, the University’s College of Biological Sciences raised its hourly wages to $15 for some student positions, which went into effect on Jan. 3.

According to the Washington Post, in April 2020, nearly 21 million people lost their jobs. At the start of the pandemic, many businesses said they felt reluctant to hire new people. However, businesses are now looking to hire, but not nearly enough people are applying.

Some University employers, especially those who work in the dining halls, saw the effects of staffing shortages that led to some campus dining options remaining closed through the fall semester.

“The institute was hiring a lot at the beginning of the semester,” Bechtold said. “They had a really easy [time] filling those jobs which I think was partly because of the raise that they did. Students are gonna want to work for them.”

Maria Morande, second-year student and IonE program associate, said that she was planning on finding a second job until the institute raised its minimum wage.

“I was considering picking up a TA position, and I knew that I was really going to be busy this semester and it wasn’t super ideal,” Morande said. “[Now I] just have my job at the Institute on the Environment this semester, which has been so great. I get to have more time to devote to my studies and having time for leisure as well.”

Student workers within the institute say that they hope other University departments see this change and are inspired to raise their undergraduate minimum wage as well.

“I really hope that it’s a catalyst,” Morande said. “I really hope that it puts pressure on different areas of the University to adopt this change or something similar.”

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