The hidden negatives of a higher wage

Alex McLean

After Governor J.B. Pritzker took office, he signed a bill increasing the minimum wage in Illinois to $15 by 2025. This could appear to be a positive for college students. However over time, increasing wages may garnish negative effects for Augie students and the impoverished alike.

This might sound amazing for the college students of Augustana and according to the student handbook, “…all student employment positions will be paid hourly at the current Illinois minimum wage.” It seems as though until otherwise stated by the school, students will reap the benefits of this increase.

The downside, however, will be that the school may crack down on their hours offered by student positions. Currently, all domestic students are restricted to 10 hours per week of on-campus jobs and international students restricted to 20 hours. This is regardless of multiple employments or the job(s) held. Hopefully however, the campus won’t attempt to cut down on some student positions as a result of a wage increase.

At the current 10 hours per week maximum, many students would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. With such low hours as is, many students are maxed out at around $160 in a paycheck, which is very low if students living off-campus or in Transitional Learning Areas require groceries and other supplies. The increase to $9.25 per hour on Jan. 1, 2020 and again to $10 per hour on July 1, 2020 would greatly increase the student bi-weekly intake.

Personally, I resigned from an off-campus job (which had a base wage of $10 per hour) in order to fully pursue classes and schoolwork during my junior year. Currently, I hold 3 on-campus jobs: tutoring, driving for ACES and writing for the Observer. I make nearly $120 per paycheck while putting in many hours on and off the clock but barely scrape by for purchases necessary outside of groceries.

As I get closer to graduation, I know I’ll need to move back into off-campus jobs. And while an increase to $9.25 or even $10 per hour is helpful, being restricted to 10 hours per week is not sustainable.

The school already does its students a favor and does not withdraw state or federal taxes, allowing their employees to receive the full income from their work. There has not been any official word on the school’s response to increasing minimum wage, and I gather we’ll have some sort of statement as 2020 very quickly approaches.

According to WQAD, many businesses are considering the replacement of some manual labor jobs with automation as a way to deal with the rising costs in salaries. Additionally, places like T.J. Maxx and Ross may see prices increase mandated by those producing their products.

Likely, throughout Illinois, product price increases and automated positions will become more prevalent. And while I really like the idea of an increased minimum wage as a college student, I believe this will be adverse for individuals in minimum wage positions.

The Congressional Budget Office produced some information stating some areas may lose jobs and many individuals will go further into poverty. The minimum wage has not been increased in a decade, and areas that have already seen an increase have not had this implemented for long enough to see long-lasting effects. These effects will have to be evaluated when the time comes.