When studying the debate over the minimum wage for my internship, I began to consider the effects of campus wages on the student experience at Boston College. Year after year, on-campus prices increase. Football games, theater productions, and charity events are additional costs that are not factored into a semester’s tuition. These costs can be quite a heavy burden. Thus, as our nation looks to increase the minimum wage, student employees should join the movement to increase their on-campus wages and improve the overall quality of life at BC.
When it comes to the American economy, the burgeoning gap between the rich and the poor is causing President Barack Obama to persue an increase in the minimum wage. The proposed spike from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour will account for the increased cost of living and alleviate the burden for those who are struggling to get by.
Currently, the federal minimum wage is about $3 lower than the calculated living wage. Living wage is defined as the hourly rate necessary to meet the minimum standard of living. In Newton, the living wage for one adult is $12.62 per hour, to account for the cost of food, housing, transportation, medical expenses, taxes, etc. Yet, the statewide minimum wage in Massachusetts is only $8 an hour. This means that the typical Dunkin’ employee, Bluestone Bistro waiter, or City Co. cashier cannot afford the minimum standard lifestyle near BC.
The benefits to increasing the minimum wage are astronomical. To begin, we look toward our international allies who generate a more impressive minimum wage. Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, and France offer a standard wage of over $10 per hour. Australia, with a minimum wage of $16/hour, was the only country to avoid the global recession completely. Obama and legislators in Congress are using this evidence as stimulation to drive the federal minimum wage up to $10.10 per hour. Republicans in Congress remain opposed to the plan because they fear it will cause unemployment. Reputable studies indicate that the increase in minimum wage has very little impact on unemployment rates, however, because most firms that employ minimum wage workers are large corporations that can afford to spend a few extra bucks on their employees.
Likewise, research suggests that higher wages actually save employers money in the long run. It causes a reduction in employee turnover and increased productivity. Consequently, employers are not forced to waste time and money training new workers. In addition, their employees are more likely to provide better customer service and improve the overall image of the company.
Further, an increase in the minimum wage can stimulate the economy. If workers have more money in their pockets, they will spend more on consumer products, increasing the U.S. GDP. As the economy booms, job creation will follow, causing a better outcome for all parties involved.
When it comes to college life, BC students are lucky to attend an institution that is generous with on-campus employment. The dining halls, academic departments, and recreation facilities offer myriad federal work-study and on-campus job opportunities. The majority of these jobs pay between $8 and $10 dollars per hour. Yet, every BC student knows that the cost of living here is especially high. Tuition, textbooks, and room and board are just at the base cost of a semester at BC. One point of contention is the mandatory meal plan. Nearly every freshman and sophomore is required to cough up a whopping $2,500 per semester for food, with no option to purchase something smaller. At the end of my sophomore year, I had a remaining balance of $800 on my meal plan, with no refund or rollover from the University. That is a sunk cost of $800 that could have covered two semesters’ worth of textbooks, a month’s rent in an off-campus apartment, or four months’ worth of groceries from Star Market. While I had a job at the Plex, my full year’s paycheck was not enough to cover the loss. As the typical hour’s pay can barely cover the cost of a meal at BC, the average wage should be increased to support the standard of living that the University provides.
Further, an increased wage for on-campus workers may have alternative effects that will stimulate campus involvement. Many students argue that the price of on-campus events prevents them from attending ticketed events. On average, a student ticket for a single football game is about $20, and for hockey and basketball games, ticket prices are $15. Also, plays, musicals, a cappella concerts, and charity events have entry fees ranging from $10-15. Students probably opt out of at least one show or game they would otherwise attend because prices are so high. This could be changed with higher on-campus wage.
Not only would the quality of student life improve on campus, but also a higher wage would encourage students to leave the BC bubble to explore what the greater Boston area has to offer. Concerts at the House of Blues, Red Sox games at Fenway, and dining out in the North End are some of the main attractions that lure students to Boston. Yet, like nearly everything in our beloved city, these come at a hefty price. Because most students work under 10 hours a week, attending an event in Boston could cost upwards of two weeks’ pay. This deters students from taking advantage of all that Boston has to offer.
As Obama attempts to increase the federal minimum wage to improve the standard of living, administrators at BC should do the same to improve campus life for students. Alleviating everyday costs and increasing campus involvement are just a few perks that will result from this change. With all of the costs students and families of BC have to endure, higher wages could make BC an even more enjoyable place to be.