By David Cazares || Contributing Writer
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” – Nelson Mandela
As a senior, my time at F&M is coming to an end. I have been here two years, and I’m grateful for every minute of it. There are students of vastly different social and economic backgrounds at this school. A common grievance among Diplomats, however, is how little on-campus jobs pay compared to how much Lancaster living expenses have gone up. To keep F&M a sustainable environment, student workers must receive higher pay. Students, faculty, and staff of Marshall College: we must work together to raise student wages.
The unfortunate reality of college in our generation is that many of us must work while handling a full course load. Total cost of attendance here is at an all-time high, with students reported paying between $75,000 to $80,00 a year. Very few people disagree that working too many hours is detrimental to academic success, but at times we are left with no choice.
I have personally heard from too many friends how they must work past dawn after their long shifts to turn assignments in on time. Some of us send money back home and can’t afford to work on campus. Outside jobs do not offer the same benefits as being on campus, safe from dangerous working conditions. Many students don’t have cars of their own, complicating things even further.
The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing supply chain issues have exacerbated prices for everything in our daily lives. With prices everywhere rising and F&M’s wages stagnant, students look elsewhere for employment. For international students, this is even more burdensome due to visa limitations.
In the Fall of 2021, I contacted 15 similarly sized colleges and universities to inquire about their student wages. On average, these schools pay student workers $12 an hour. MIT’s Living Wage Calculator states that an hourly wage of $13.46 is needed to live comfortably in Lancaster. This is far from the $7.25 minimum wage of Pennsylvania. If you look on Handshake, on-campus jobs will start pay at $8.00 an hour — a long way away from $13.46.
There are jobs to be filled on-campus and no one to take them because students know they can get paid better elsewhere. Every position from tour guides, to library workers, lifeguards and college tutors must be compensated fairly for the work they do, the people they help, and the benefits they bring to the school.
This is a reflection of the ongoing labor shortage, and the historic push to raise the minimum wage nationwide. Eight dollars an hour, before taxes, is simply not enough when students are not allowed to work more than 10 hours a week. This often forces students to look for a second job elsewhere, complicating their schedule and increasing stress.
Paul Daigle of the student employment office is stepping down soon. In a meeting with the Diplomatic Congress, he stated that he tried to pass a structured pay increase for students, but failed. Below is an excerpt from this meeting:
“Paul DAIGLE explained that meetings regarding these proposals [to increase wages] have already begun, and now it’s a dollars and cents issue. F&M currently employs about 1,000 to 1,200 students every semester and receives $300,000 from the federal government, but we pay the students $2.5 to $3 million every year. His office handles about $1.5 to $2 million. It’s not just about getting money from the federal government; it reaches the College’s bottom line. Advocacy through letters, emails, meetings with administrators, etc. could be helpful.”
His successor must work with the administration and student body for a transparent plan to increase wages. Over the next few weeks, I will propose a petition and a meeting for senior management and student leadership to push for a fair and equitable increase.
I’m hopeful that when I leave, future students will be able to excel in classes without having to worry about how to afford tuition and groceries. Our responsibility lies in improving the world around us. This is an idea that has been cultivated by my experiences at F&M. What better place to start improvement than at the place we all call home.
Millersville: Starting at $9.00
Swarthmore: $10.78 – $11.88
Dickinson College: $7.50 – $8.65
Bucknell: refused to comment
Elizabethtown College: $7.25 – $10.00
Bowdoin: $12.75 and up
Bates College: $12.15
Colorado College: $12.32 – $12.72
Colgate: $13.25 – $14.00
Hamilton: $13.20 – $14.45
University of Richmond: $11.00 – $15.00
Wesleyan: $13.00 (Connecticut’s minimum wage)
Pomona: $15.00 (California’s minimum wage)
Text for Petition
Franklin & Marshall College must pay student employees a higher wage. Right now, there is not a transparent pay structure. Wages start around $8 an hour, which is only $0.75 more than Pennsylvania’s 13-year-old minimum wage.
The cost of living along with tuition, room, and board has increased while student pay has remained stagnant.
Students, alumni, and community members must voice their concerns about this inadequate pay.
By signing this petition, you show your support for F&M students receiving higher wages. Please share personal experiences on how low wages have impacted your college experience if you feel comfortable.
Please show respect and courtesy. Thank you and Go Dips!
Senior David Cazares is a contributing writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.