Wage Increase in Dining Services: A Step Towards Encouraging Student Retention


A Luther student Caf worker serves breakfast in 2020. Photo courtesy of Luther College Photo Bureau.

In recent years, Luther College has experienced a decline in the number of students working in dining services, according to Director of Human Resources Matthew Bills. In response to this steady decline, Luther Works leadership, which is in charge of student work study opportunities, recommended a $1 per hour increase in the wages of Dining Services, Grounds and Custodial student employees. 


The wage increase was reflected in all levels of positions, including Level 1 salaries of $9.25 per hour, Level 2 salaries of $9.75 per hour, Level 3 salaries of $10.25 per hour, and Level 1+ salaries of $9.45 per hour. Bills explained the purpose of this increase. 


“There are certain student employment positions, including cafeteria workers, that are important to the functioning of basic services at Luther College,” Bills said. “After years of steady decline in the number of students working in these positions, we added the $1.00/hour premium to reward students who serve our campus community in this way and to encourage those students to remain in their positions for multiple years.”


Bills further elaborated that Luther’s student employee hourly wage is similar to those at other Iowa colleges. However, the leveled system that allows students to earn more money as they gain more experience, skill and responsibility is unusual among other Iowa institutions.


Muhammad Mughees Akbar Warraich (‘26) is a student worker in the Caf that plans to work as a Caf student manager next semester. He shared his thoughts on the wage increase. 


“[The increase] really helps,” Warraich said. “An extra dollar does motivate a lot of people to stay in the Caf. Plus, we work a lot in our shifts, so the extra dollar is [deserved].”

Nastya Cicala (‘26) is another student worker in the Caf. She enjoys her job and the people she gets to work with. 

“I like working in the Caf mostly because of the ‘white coats’,” Cicala said. “They are the nicest people who care about you and keep a fun atmosphere. Depending on the hours, there are stretches when the time drags but most of the time you have what [you need] to keep yourself busy.”

The Caf may offer a variety of positive and negative experiences for workers, but the increase in wages for Caf workers and other basic service positions is an important step toward retaining students and valuing their work.