Minimum wage debate hits home for USD students

By Allyson Meyer

Student workers, whose jobs often pay minimum wage, believe they would benefit from a wage raise.

Student workers, whose jobs often pay minimum wage, believe they would benefit from a wage raise.

Groceries, fuel and education are just a few of the daily expenses confronting University of San Diego students. To afford these expenses, many students must take a part-time job. However, many of these jobs pay the minimum wage, and leave students unable to meet their needs.

USD junior Alexa Argumedo sees this challenge often, and has considered a second part-time job in order to save for the future. Argumedo expressed worry over her ability to save with a low-paying job.

“A minimum wage job won’t be enough to pay for everything,” Argumedo said.

It may be that a bachelor’s degree is no longer all that students need to qualify for a high-paying job. According to a recent Washington Post article, it is now more common than ever for college graduates to land jobs that pay closer to the minimum wage. The article cites that one in 13 minimum wage recipients have earned a college degree.

Few college graduates expect to earn $7.25 per hour, which is the United States’ federal minimum wage. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that just over 11 percent of graduates in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree or higher earn below minimum wage. As higher education becomes necessary for employment, a minimum wage job may be the only option for some students upon graduation.
In a New York Times article Catherine Rampell addresses this issue, stating that even some non-management jobs may now require a college education.

“The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest level job,” Rampell said.

Although the minimum wage debate has primarily been discussed as an issue that affects people without a college degree, college students now may have to accept the possibility of working a minimum wage job in the future.

Minimum wage is a highly contentious issue throughout the country, with a federal wage increase divided along party lines. The New York Daily News wrote that Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, has called President Barack Obama’s plan to raise the federal minimum wage a “job killer.”

Where some Republican lawmakers view raising the federal minimum wage as harmful to business, Democrats and President Obama see a raise in the wage as essential to combating poverty. According to the transcript of Obama’s speech on raising the minimum wage, Obama said that three in four Americans are in favor of raising the federal minimum wage.

Obama said the United States can and should increase minimum wage.
“[We] believe that in the wealthiest nation on earth, nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty,” Obama said. “That’s a basic principle.”

Minimum wage has already garnered national attention and students at USD are seeing how it impacts them.

Junior Carleigh Fernandez believes raising the minimum wage would be beneficial not only to student workers like herself, but also to those in the community who must rely on minimum wage to make ends meet.

“I do think minimum wage should be raised to help those who actually have to live solely off of their minimum wage jobs,” Fernandez said. “I personally would appreciate the extra money, but moreover I think it would make a big difference in the lives of people who rely more heavily on the income.”

Junior Hayley Park currently works two jobs on campus at the math and computer science department and Aromas.

When it comes to raising the minimum wage, Park believes that there needs to be a change.

“I do believe minimum wage should be raised,” Park said. “I even have two jobs to get more hours and therefore make more money. By raising minimum wage it allows students to work a decent amount of hours instead of overextending themselves. It also rewards the hard work we put into our jobs.”

Argumedo, who works a job that pays minimum wage, said a wage increase would help meet student and community needs.
“I think minimum wage needs to be raised to a living wage,” Argumedo said. “Groceries, gas, etc., are so expensive. It is close to impossible to live off a minimum wage job. People shouldn’t have to work two to three minimum wage jobs just to afford the bare necessities.”

According to a July 2014 article from the Huffington Post, minimum wage in San Diego is currently set at $9 per hour. This summer, San Diego City Council voted on a wage increase to $11.50 per hour that would increase incrementally over the next three years starting with an increase to $9.75 per hour in January 2015.
Last month, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer vetoed the minimum wage increase. According to KPBS, Faulconer vetoed the ordinance based on his belief that an increase would hurt the local economy by making neighboring cities more appealing to small businesses.
However, according KPBS, City Council President Todd Gloria, a USD alumnus, believed the council would be able to override the mayor’s veto.

Gloria saw a need to address the existence of low wage workers in San Diego who are currently unable to live off minimum wage.
“When 38 percent of San Diego workers don’t earn enough to make ends meet, something must be done,” Gloria said.

This August the San Diego City Council voted to override Faulconer’s veto. However, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce is now calling for a referendum to place the issue on the ballot.

To raise awareness, Gloria took part in a challenge of living on $51 for a week. Gloria said that $51 is the weekly residual income of a full-time minimum wage worker after taxes and housing costs are subtracted.

According to ABC 10 News, Gloria’s opponents viewed his challenge as a publicity stunt. However, Gloria said he saw the challenge as a way to highlight how a low minimum wage prevents consumers from frequenting small businesses, and therefore hurts the economy.
For Gloria, the week-long challenge was an opportunity to experience life on minimum wage and to understand how little money is left over after the cost of rent and utilities.

“This isn’t a stunt,” Gloria said. “This is life for thousands of San Diegans every single day.”

With the minimum wage debate comes the issue of the cost of a college education without sufficient employment income to pay off student loans.

Judith Lewis Logue, director of financial aid at USD, says that if a minimum wage job is the only option for a student after graduation, a student should not worry or take it personally.
Logue stressed the importance of taking a job with the opportunity to move up and excel. She believes that a college degree is still essential for students to advance in the workplace.

Robin Darmon, director of career services at USD, urges students to come up with a career strategy and goal, stressing the importance of knowing strengths and interests when looking for employment.

Darmon believes those strategies will help USD students find employment at levels similar to last year’s graduating class.
“Ninety-five percent of the Class of 2013 had jobs six months at the most after graduation,” Darmon said.

For all graduate majors, Darmon said that the average salary was more than $47 thousand a year, which is well above minimum wage.
With the debates concerning both the federal and local minimum wage, students realize the impact that this issue could have on them. A bachelor’s degree, which was once considered a guarantee for a well-paying job, is now often considered a minimum requirement for employment. What was once an issue that impacted those without a college degree, minimum wage is now a possible a reality for many college students and graduates.