Opinion | The UI needs to raise campus minimum wage to $15 per hour

The University of Iowa needs to accommodate students by paying a livable wage to staff.


Raquele Decker

Photo Illustration by Raquele Decker.

Josie Taylor, Opinions Contributor

The University of Iowa minimum wage is set at $8.20 per hour, despite encouragement from the Johnson County Board of Supervisors for a minimum of $10.75 per hour. Neither of these wages are enough to pay on-campus student workers at the UI, however. The UI needs a minimum wage of $15, like many people in the nation have called for.

On the UI campus, many of us don’t realize how difficult life would be without people willing to work in facilities like dining halls and gyms. Student workers deserve to be adequately compensated, especially if they are working to help pay for their education.

Forty-three percent of full-time undergraduate students in the U.S. were employed in 2018 to help pay for classes and living expenses.

On-campus jobs provide greater flexibility for a school-friendly schedule, which is why it is the most practical option for most students.

However, students need more than flexibility. Some need the job to help pay for their education, and the UI should take part in helping these students by paying them a sufficient minimum wage.

Katie Grogan, a UI student and staff member at the Hillcrest Dining hall, said in an email to The Daily Iowan that she is expected to be able to work three to five different positions in the hall and is paid $9.50 per hour. She also said the hours she currently works can’t fully support her, but managing any more would be too much of a stress.

Students like Grogan should be paid more, especially since they are expected to have multiple skills and to balance being a student and having a job.

According to the UI, students from Iowa who live on campus are estimated to spend $26,246 per year on essentials like tuition, housing, food and transportation. Living off campus is estimated at around $24,574 per year.

If a student was able to work full-time, all year, they would still only make $16,400 with minimum wage.

In reality, working full time is not a reasonable request for full-time students. It would be nearly impossible for students to work 40 hours per week, while taking a minimum of 12 credit hours in classes. If a student was able to do this, it would be very difficult to find time for student organizations and planning for post-graduation.

In addition, this type of time commitment and pressure could negatively affect students’ mental health. Thirty-three percent of college students already struggle with mental illness, and students feeling like they have to work a full-time job while being a full-time student could add a significant amount of stress and overwork themselves.

Overworking students means they could have less time to put into their schoolwork, which could therefore affect their grades. If students have more time to spend on their studies, they will perform better in classes that will in turn benefit the UI in areas such as its graduation rate.

The UI needs to remember to value its student workers. One of the best ways to do this is with a $15 minimum wage.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.

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