Campus employers adjust to wage increase

By Gus Bode

Emotions mixed about pay raises for student workers

Starting Jan. 28, student workers may notice a change in their paychecks-they will be bigger.

With the raise in the Illinois minimum wage at the beginning of the year, all student workers at SIUC will be receiving at least $6.50 per hour. This change was part of a bill signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2003 that increased the state minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $5.50 per hour Jan. 2004 and raised it another dollar this year.

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Before the increase, SIUC student workers received $6.05 per hour, which was 55 cents above the Illinois state minimum wage at the time. Now, the wage is the same on campus as it is for the rest of the state.

While this pay raise will put extra money in the pockets of student workers, it will also demand more money from campus employers, leaving several questions about where the money will come from.

Some of the money will come from recent years’ tuition increases. Chancellor Walter Wendler said this money is in effect “redistributed” because it both comes from and goes to the students.

The University is providing money to all departments that hire student workers. So far, it has committed nearly $240,000 for the minimum wage increase. Wendler said by next year that figure could be higher.

Wendler said he believes this wage increase will make on-campus jobs more attractive.

Every student worker, including those who were previously above the minimum threshold, will be receiving a pay raise as well. Wendler said having an on-campus job gives students more of an opportunity to get involved in the school.

“If people need work, they should be looking all the time,” Wendler said.

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SIUC employs nearly 6,000 student workers, many of whom are on financial aid. Donna Williams, an accountant for the Financial Aid Department, said student workers who have federal work-study don’t have to worry about losing their jobs.

“We won’t cut any hours,” Williams said. “We won’t cut any workers.”

While the money the University is providing will go to most departments on campus, some areas that hire student workers, such as the Recreation Center and the Student Center, won’t receive any money.

These areas are independent businesses. The Recreation Center, the Daily Egyptian and the Student Center will not receive any money from the University to pay their workers and thus will not receive any extra money to help pay employees for the wage increase. They will have to find a way to pay their workers the same minimum wage as the rest of campus without the extra help.

Sheila Echols, an accounting associate from the Student Center business office, said they are not sure yet how it will come up with the extra funds.

“It’s kind of unknown what the financial impact is going to be,” Echols said.

The Student Center does receive government funding, so Echols said she will encourage workers to apply for federal work-study if possible. If students are not able to do this, the Student Center will have to pay 100 percent of the wages for students not on federal work-study.

Echols said requiring employees to be on work-study is a possibility if the Student Center cannot find the money to make up the difference.

Bill McMinn, director of operations for the Recreation Center, said they will find ways of cutting back spending without cutting any staff.

“People are our most important resource,” McMinn said. “The last thing we are going to do is cut staffing.”

McMinn said the Recreation Center cannot afford to cut any positions because many of the jobs, such as lifeguards and trainers, are specialized positions that require certain skills. Instead of cutting workers, McMinn said they will have to cut back on equipment spending and maintenance.

The Recreation Center has increased self-generated income in the past couple of years, and McMinn said he hopes they will be able to do so again this year to compensate for the wage increases.

Reporter William Ford can be reached at

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