University of Maryland sets $15 minimum wage for working students

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Last year, Vivian Flanagan was exhausted from her job on the University of Maryland campus: the schedules were brutal, with some shifts starting or ending at 3 a.m., which left her struggling during classes. She worried about handling packages and working directly with so many students amid the omicron surge of the coronavirus pandemic.

And with a salary of around $12 an hour, she thought, “I don’t get paid enough for this.”

She wasn’t alone in her frustration. In November, more than 1,200 U-Md. students signed a petition started by the campus chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops in favor of a $15 hourly minimum wage across campus.

Flanagan was thrilled when the university president announced this week, as classes began in College Park, that the minimum wage for working students would increase starting in January.

“Oh my God – I really didn’t expect this to happen,” she said. “I am really, really excited.”

In a message to the campus community, U-Md. President Darryll J. Pines called the minimum wage increase “a significant multimillion-dollar investment in a key pillar of our strategic plan: investing in people and communities.”

Pines said over the phone that, in the interests of fairness, “we feel it’s important that we listen to our communities and address their concerns about wages.” University leaders wanted to accelerate the state’s timetable for raising salaries, he said, and ensure students could support themselves in a metropolitan area with such a high cost of living.

Pines said “even before student advocacy, our administration was already focused on this issue.”

The state of Maryland is raising the minimum wage to $15 for most hourly workers by 2025. And last year, Maryland’s university system — which includes the College Park campus — approved a $15 minimum wage. $ for most of its employees.

But many student workers were stuck at the old pay levels.

Maryland University System Approves $15 Minimum Wage for Most Employees

A university spokeswoman said U-Md. has about 4,300 student employees, some of whom earn $12.50 an hour until the new rate takes effect next year. Others, usually those who help faculty members with their research duties, are already earning over $15 an hour.

Flanagan, a member of the United Students group and student leader, helped advance a bill passed by the school’s Residence Hall Association, calling for an increase in their pay after hearing from students who relied on their jobs on the campus to pay for food and rent. . Some had to take out loans to cover their living expenses. In July, as a rising senior, she said she learned her department’s wages would increase to $15 an hour.

Stipends for graduate assistants also increased this year to nearly $31,000 a year in addition to tuition, said Joey Haavik, 26, who is completing a master’s program in international education policy.

According to the administration, the minimum stipend for graduate assistants has increased by more than 26% in 2022 and by more than 50% over the past four years.

Haavik, who is president of the graduate student government, said tuition benefits were one of the things that attracted him to U-Md. — but that he has to live with his parents in Columbia, Md., because the stipend isn’t enough to cover rent, books, fees and other expenses.

“It’s not a financially practical decision to live in College Park on this allowance,” he said. “A financial adviser wouldn’t recommend it.”

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U-Md. leaders have backed students advocating for better pay, said Ayelette Halbfinger, 22, student body president, with the challenge being how to fund a raise.

She worked part-time throughout her student career, but not on campus. The pay was better elsewhere.

As for Flanagan, she left work at crazy hours, and took another in the same department. “The change of job, as well as the increase in salary,” she said, “has really made my life a whole lot better.”

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