Potential pay raise for student workers

Leah Marxhausen, Staff Writer

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Current work study pay is at $7.25 an hour, resulting in an increasing number of students opting to work off-campus instead for a more competitive wage. These wages are significantly less than the starting wages of $9.25 at St. Olaf College and $8.00 at Grinell College. As a result, in the developing Luther Strategic Plan, Luther is considering raising the hourly pay.

1,300 students are participating in the work study program this year. This program allows students to work in a variety of locations around campus from Marty’s to the visual media office. It gives students the opportunity to gain workplace experience while remaining on campus.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Eric Runestad has been involved in the future of student work pay.

“Lots of students work,” Runestad said. “It’s part of the Luther experience. Working on campus allows you to stay engaged on campus. You’re meeting faculty and staff that you wouldn’t necessarily know otherwise. You’re working with students in ways that you wouldn’t otherwise. It becomes a way to stay connected to a residential experience.”

Jenna Gengler (‘22) works in the media relations office at Luther. According to Gengler, this allows her to gain experiences that she could not have had in an off-campus job.

“Spending time working in the media office, I was able to make connections with staff and gain unique experiences to help with my future career in music business that I couldn’t find off-campus,” Gengler said.

The work study hourly wage has been consistent with the Iowa minimum wage of $7.25 for the past 10 years. Runestad said this “less-than-competitive” wage is what causes more and more students to seek employment off-campus. Although there is no talk of increasing the Iowa minimum wage, there are higher wages in town.

Not all students have the same experience as Gengler. Jane Bremer (‘22) spent her first semester doing custodial work before leaving her position to search for work elsewhere.

“The work that I was doing did not feel like it was worth the money I was receiving for it,” Bremer said. “I felt like I would have the opportunity to find something that would be worth the work off-campus.”

Bremer is not the only student disappointed with her compensation. This dilemma is being discussed as a part of the upcoming Luther Strategic Plan.

“We see the need to look across the student work program and take that pool of resources and sort of see how those dollars are being used right now and how they line up with those kinds of skills and competencies and connections that we want students to be able to make,” Runestad said.

According to Runestad, the Strategic Plan is complex and multilayered, so an exact estimate of when a raise can be expected is unclear. However, he also said that a year is not an unreasonable assumption. The hope is that an increase in pay might entice more students to stay on campus for employment and allow the work study program to continue to grow.

“We think it would make sense both to think about different wage rates for students and opportunities for students to make increasing amounts of money in their student work as they gain experience and responsibility,” Runestad said.

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