Opinion | Student employees deserve to be paid more

Housing and Dining student employees have received a well-deserved raise, but all student employees need a raise.


Matthew Hsieh

Students work at the University of Iowa Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Wednesday Sept. 16, 2020.

Yassie Buchanan, Opinions Columnist

With many facing financial struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic, all University of Iowa student employees deserve a raise. 

With a shortage of student employees on campus, the UI has given raises to students working in Housing and Dining. The starting wage for University Housing and Dining has jumped from $9.50 to $11 an hour to be more competitive. However, this should apply to all students with campus jobs. 

The past few years have been financially challenging for many students. It is not surprising that the university is having trouble staffing jobs that don’t pay enough to cover living costs.  

A study from Georgetown University found that 70 percent of college students in the U.S. work, yet are still unable to afford school and the cost of living. 

Over time, it has become nearly impossible for low-income college students to afford tuition on top of living expenses. In the 60s and 70s, a student working part-time during school and full time in the summer could afford tuition and general living costs at the average four-year public university. That is nearly unheard of now.  

It’s also important to note that working in college can come at the cost of education for many students. One study found 59 percent of low-income students working 15 hours or more received C averages or lower. When students have to work extra hours to make up for the cost of living and tuition, it leaves little time for school.

One example of where on campus student employees need raises is the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. 

Jacob Sueppel is a senior undergraduate student at the UI studying secondary education. Sueppel works at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center in Member Services. He is responsible for checking people into the facility, answering phone calls, selling memberships, handling patrons who are not following facility rules, and more. 

Sueppel said the starting wage for students at the rec center is $8.50/hour while member services employee wages move up to $9.50/hour, and supervisors get paid $ 10.50/hour. 

When Sueppel learned about certain students getting a raise, he thought he would get one as well. 

“When we first heard about the raises, I thought ours is probably coming, but that didn’t happen,” Sueppel said. “It’s kind of nuts because we are not asking for a lot and paying rent plus utilities is really stressful. A dollar or two more would go a long way. I know people have had to quit because they can’t afford life with that wage.”  

Additionally, Sueppel said the rec center has been understaffed for the past year, and was only recently able to hire more employees.

It is not an unreasonable request when students ask for wages to be raised slightly, especially when economists say $15 minimum wages are ideal for boosting the economy and reducing poverty.  

Students should not have to beg to be paid enough to live and attend school, especially when they are working and running facilities for the university. It should also not take extreme understaffing for the university to start offering higher pay.

It’s a good step for University Housing and Dining staff to receive raises. However, it’s time all student employees get paid more. 

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.