Staff, student minimum wage increased after push from campus leaders
The University has increased the student minimum wage from $8 to $10 and its staff minimum wage from $13 to $15.
The raise, which SGA President Benjamin Rizk said students should see in their November paycheck, came after a dual effort on behalf of the Student Government Association and the Staff Council. The Council, which has been pushing for the increase since last year, was joined by SGA after senators passed a resolution supporting the move in late August.
The Supporting Higher Wages for Lower Income Campus Staff resolution was passed as part of Students Unite’s campaign promise to raise the campus minimum wage. The party, which took majority control of the Senate after last year’s elections, declared its intent to increase the student worker minimum wage as early as February of 2023.
“The raise is not only going to help students take jobs on campus so that they can get more involved in the campus community, but it also gives them the ability to pay for their own college,” Rizk said.
Student minimum wage had not been increased since 2019 when former SGA President Allison Lawrence successfully raised the student minimum wage from $7.25 to $8. Since then, inflation has increased by almost 20%, according to the CPI inflation calculator.
English literature sophomore Sarah Shea is the assistant director of the Metropolitan Volunteer Program, a student-run community service organization. As a working student, she said that the raise would ease some of the burden imposed by tuition and related expenses.
“The raise will help lighten some of my economic stress,” Shea said. “Stuff like parking and tuition are some of my biggest expenses, so this should give me a bit more cushion.”
Shea said that while the raise is a welcome surprise, inflation, tuition costs and rising living expenses have dampened its impact in terms of actual buying power.
“I fully pay for my education myself, and while I do get a decent amount in scholarships, I still cough up one to two grand each semester,” Shea said. “So while it’s a nice surprise, I really don’t think it’s in line with Houston’s cost of living or inflation.”
Along with SGA, the Council has been pushing to raise the minimum wage for staff members to $15. This marks the third raise staff members have received over the past three years after an initial raise from $9 to $11 in August of 2021 and another to $13 in August of 2022.
Former Council President, David Frankfort, said UH has over 250 open staff positions with the majority being full-time positions.
“We’ve had a lot of staff leave the University for Rice, University of Texas and so on, because they pay more,” Frankfort said. “We are focused on getting staff more money, but also trying to fill all the positions because this is the first time in three and a half years, we’re below 300 open positions.”
Rizk said that he and Frankfurt had discussed their organization’s support for one another prior to passing the resolution. This marked a first step toward forging a collaborative relationship between SGA and the Council, something Rizk said has been sorely lacking in recent years.
“Contact with the Staff Council has completely diminished over the last four years, and I’m trying to rebuild it,” Rizk said. “I wanted to show a token of gratitude towards staff counsel and let them know that SGA is here for them and we want to do anything we can to support them.”
The raise comes as an early victory for Rizk’s administration. During last year’s election campaign, support for working students was among one of the key points that distinguished his party’s platform from the opposition.
Politics aside, students like Shea still feel the University could be doing more to support its employees. As a member of one of the many organizations that assist in the planning and production of events like Glow Party and Cat’s Back, she feels that student workers are still critically undervalued assets.
“It says a lot that the University was so willing to underpay the very workers who keep many of these programs afloat and exemplary,” Shea said. “Student workers are like the backbone of UH’s campus life.”