Two dollars more an hour is worth it

Alexander Davis (‘19)

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In response to the news article “Luther widens summer job applicant pool due to low student interest” quoting Erik Runestad, I would like to reflect on one of the comments made by the school administration and suggest another factor of student summer employment that may not currently be taken into consideration by Luther’s work study department.

In the article, Eric Runestad says “students need to make a determination about whether or not two dollars an hour is worth it.” This strikes me as a fairly odd statement: of course two dollars an hour is “worth it” to a college student. In fact, for a majority of these students the two dollar difference is the difference between receiving minimum wage or not.

Students who work at Luther over the summer most likely work on campus unless they are one of the lucky few who call Decorah or surrounding areas home. Naturally, residing on campus is not free. The cost of one night in a single room is $11, while a double costs $8.75. These fees are competitive in terms of housing, and I understand that they are necessary to cover the costs of keeping the lights on. However, they must be taken into account when determining student summer worker wages. $8.75 a night means that for eight hours of work, a student is effectively getting around fifty dollars a day before tax ($6.15 an hour). The effective hourly wage for  a student residing in singles is even lower. If the same student living on campus decided to get a job in Decorah — even with the cost of living at Luther — they would be earning wages far closer to or even exceeding the Iowa minimum.

These costs should not be ignored by the administration, as they play a crucial role in choices made by prospective student workers. If the college wants to ensure they receive sufficient student employment over the summer without sourcing local high schoolers, the administration should consider revising summer wages or costs. This could also include reducing the price of on-campus living for students employed by the college to make summer work study employment options more competitive for students.

However, I acknowledge that the transition to local high school workers might be beneficial for the college, as Iowa minimum wage is more acceptable when living costs are handled by parents. When it comes to the two-dollar-an-hour difference in wages, I think the college needs to make a determination about whether or not sourcing Luther student workers is worth it.


Alexander Davis (‘19)

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