The student wage increase is a distraction

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 The wage increase for student on-campus jobs was celebrated by many as a sign that our voices were being heard, that we were changing the system for the better. As someone who works three on-campus jobs, I was certainly interested in the new wage system, but for a very different reason.

At the beginning of this school year, my Community Advisor sat down with the two lofts he’s in charge of and handed down the new policy information that he was given by Lawrence administration. Last year if you lost your student ID, it would be $5 to replace it. This year, it will be $20. Last year if you lost your room key, it would be $75 to replace it. This year, it will be $175. We were flabbergasted. $20 for a piece of plastic and $175 for a key that would cost a student less than $5 to duplicate on their own—if we were allowed to, that is. He told us that if we were locked out of our room, they would be charging to let us back in. Lawrence’s administration had the CAs deliver this news. You won’t find it anywhere on Lawrence’s website, it only says that “a fee will apply” for a replacement.

Including tuition, housing, food and all other fees, Lawrence’s comprehensive cost is a staggering $67,299. That does not include textbooks, school supplies and the fee they charge students who win the lottery to be able to have 24-hour parking on campus, which adds hundreds of dollars to the total every year. This is a $1,800 increase from the 2022-2023 tuition. They can say it’s inflation and give you a hundred more excuses. And now, when asked about student wages reflecting these adjusted costs, they can point to the new wage system. We just increased them, didn’t we?

Wages for Tier 1 positions before the increase were barely above federal minimum wage: $7.50 per hour. Now, they are $8 per hour. Tier 2 positions now make $11 and the highest paid jobs make $13. If you look at other small, private liberal arts colleges in the Midwest, Lawrence’s student employment is frankly abysmal. All student employees at Carleton College make $12.75 per hour, no tiers necessary. All student employees at Grinnell College make $13 per hour. Starting next term, all student employees at Monmouth College will make $14 an hour; not to mention, Monmouth College’s tuition, cost of living and fees are over $6,000 cheaper than Lawrence’s per year.

So yes, when I heard the news of increased wages, I was interested. I was interested that people were actually celebrating this instead of seeing it for what it is—a desperate attempt to distract us, to keep us complacent while they increase tuition and enforce heinous key replacement costs and a million other little fees that will slip by unnoticed until we graduate with a mountain of debt. They are throwing our own pennies at us and expecting us to be grateful. Well, I am certainly not, and you shouldn’t be either.