Yale hopes big wage jump draws workers

Like many other busy Yale students, Emily Guilmette ’03 is thrilled about Yale’s recent announcement to dramatically increase student wages this year.

“It’s helpful because it’s difficult to work 10 hours,” Guilmette said of her 10-hour weeks last year for the Economic Growth Center, where she made $7.50 per hour. “There are a lot of things to balance, and a job is just something else.”

Announced only two days ago, Yale’s 28 percent wage raise stands to affect all Yale students that work for the University whether or not they receive financial aid. About 4,000 graduate and undergraduate students worked on campus last year, but as big as that number may sound Yale raised wages to encourage even more students to work for the University.

Yale’s Human Resources office did studies examining why students weren’t working and found that low wages were a main reason. Salaries typically increase 3 percent annually, which would have brought the minimum wage for most student jobs this year to $7 an hour.

This year most wages are going up 28 percent, meaning that the minimum wage will be $9 an hour. Wages vary according to jobs — there are 20 categories of jobs and five different salary levels. Technical jobs usually pay the most, and some clerical jobs pay the least. The highest rate of pay will be $11 per hour. The only large employer that is not raising wages at the 28 percent rate is Yale Dining Services because student worker salaries are tied to union rates, said Charles Paul, director of total compensation. Dining Services already pays students a starting salary of about $9.25 per hour, Paul said.

Student workers — about three-quarters of which are undergraduates — work mostly for the academic schools and departments, but a large number work for the library system, the athletics department and Yale Dining Services. In the last fiscal year, students worked about 750,000 hours, a figure that administrators said is low.

“When I came to Yale back in 1982, students were working 15 to 16 hours per week,” said Diane Williams, supervisor of student employment. “Now, students work five to six hours per week.”

The University was largely motivated to raise student worker pay by Yale’s need for more student workers. In the library, for example, many of last year’s 500 workers quit midway through the year, partly because the money students made wasn’t enough to convince them to spend their time working, said Jessica Linicus, human resource coordinator for Yale libraries.

Some offices have had to turn to temporary agencies to find workers.

“I do know for a fact that in our office it’s harder to get workers. We used to have far more students apply for jobs,” said Beverly Waters, a research associate for the Office of Institutional Research. “We have found that over the years students are not applying for jobs.”

The decline in student workers has developed in the last five years, Waters said. Her office is currently offering $9.50-per-hour research positions.

“Yale was having to hire a lot of casual workers for student jobs,” Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle said. “Students just wouldn’t take early or weekend shifts at libraries, [the] gym, etc.”

The wage raise has been in the works for months and was planned separately from other recent financial aid changes and is already in this year’s budget. Yale also receives about $3 million from the federal government to pay student workers on financial aid work study, Suttle said.

Students can find out what their new salary will be from the Student Employment Office, which handles hiring for most University jobs.

Administrators said they hope the raise will encourage more students to work.

“It’s good for Yale for students to work,” Williams said. “And it’s good for students themselves to work.”

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