Student workers at Columbia will soon be earning more cash per hour than their Yale counterparts.
In a Monday email to students, Columbia Provost John Coatsworth announced that the school would gradually increase the wage of all part-time hourly student employees to $15 per hour over the next three years. Currently, the average hourly wage for Columbia students who work on-campus jobs ranges between $7.25 and $12. The new wage of $15 is not only significantly higher than Columbia’s current average pay, but is also $3 higher than the minimum wage for students employed by Yale, which has been set at $12 per hour for the past three years, according to Director of Student Administrative Services Heather Abati. The highest wage for student workers at Yale is $15 an hour.
Abati said Yale reviews its wage policies every year, adding that next year Yale’s five pay rates will all increase by 25 cents. But despite Columbia’s more dramatic increase, students interviewed all agreed that Yale is under no pressure to do the same.
“I think it would just be greedy to raise it,” said April Alessandro ’18, who works for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “The minimum wage is fine because it’s already way above Connecticut’s. If somebody were taking a job in New Haven and a Yale student was being paid more, I don’t know if that’s necessarily fair if they’re doing the same work.”
Connecticut’s legal minimum wage is currently set at $9.60 per hour.
In his email, Coatsworth noted that Columbia’s increase was in recognition of a higher cost of living in New York City, as well as a “discussion of income inequality and economic fairness, including the minimum wage.” The announcement came amidst student lobbying and a national organization called Fight for $15.
Yale’s minimum wage, in addition to being higher than Connecticut’s, is also significantly higher than those of its peers: at Princeton, the minimum wage is $8 per hour, while Harvard, which does not have an official minimum wage, recommends $10 per hour.
Upperclassmen on financial aid at Yale are expected to pay $3,350 per year that they earn from on-campus jobs, while freshmen have to contribute $2,850. Student jobs are open to anyone enrolled at Yale, but jobs give hiring preference to students receiving financial aid during the first two weeks of each term.
Ronald Ehrenberg, an expert on student employment and financial aid who works at Cornell University, said Yale could increase wages to reduce the number of hours students on financial aid have to work, but that $15 is especially high for a student wage.
Yale College Council President Joe English ’17, who made financial aid reform central to his campaign, said increasing the minimum wage is likely not an efficient policy to reduce the financial burden of attending Yale for low-income students, since nearly as many students who are not on financial aid have on-campus jobs. That money would be better spent on bolstering scholarship or fellowship programs for these specific groups of students, he said.
“Based on my conversations with students, I think Yalies are happy with the Yale minimum wage,” English said. “It’s not uncommon for someone to even get $13 or $14 per hour. I think there are other issues related to financial aid — summer income contribution, term-time work requirements, et cetera — that are more salient.”
Chris Bowman ’16, who works at Bass Library, said Yale does not need to raise the minimum wage, adding that he has friends at public universities who make far less than he does at Yale.
Alessandro said that Yale students, unlike many adults nationwide, are not supporting families on minimum wage and in many cases are still supported by their parents.
Still, Tarek Deida, a freshman at Columbia, said he approved of Columbia’s wage increase, given how expensive it is to live in New York City.
“I think this upgrade in pay will motivate students to work harder as well as make them feel that Columbia community appreciates their contributions and the sacrifices in balancing both a job and their studies,” Deida said.
Over half of Yale College students hold at least one student job, Abati told the News last February.