Point/Counterpoint: wage hike


By Ashley Hines

Gov. J.B. Pritzker passed legislation Feb. 19 to gradually increase minimum wage to $15 by 2025. This is the first state-wide increase since 2010. The perspective staff weighs in on the potential impact of the increase.

Increase bodes well for part-time workers

Ashley Hines | Contributor

Illinois’ gradual $15 minimum wage hike will provide long-awaited relief to college students and graduates. The decision will provide college students with future financial stability to help pay rent, tuition or loans.

The average college student is between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Employment among this age group is primarily concentrated in the retail, food and hospitality industries, according to an April 26 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

These industries employ the most minimum wage workers, meaning college students who work these jobs will reap the most benefits from the minimum wage legislation. The rise will help students compensate for increased tuition and other costs of attending college.

Since 1978, college tuition has increased 1,120 percent, causing students to borrow more money than any other generation on record, according to a July 24 Forbes article. The price of college has increased at a rate eight times faster than wages. This, in conjunction with additional costs such as books, housing, food, clothing and gas, makes it virtually impossible for a single income student to afford the price tag of higher education.

Nationally, 2 in 3 college graduates have student debt, according to a Sept. 28 Institute for College Access and Success article. The average debt of an NIU graduate is $34,973, with 76 percent of students graduating with loans.

Illinois’ $8.25 minimum wage has fueled the debt crisis by requiring college students to develop a dependence on student loans for costs they could have covered out of pocket with a decent wage. College loan debt has surpassed credit card debt and is just behind mortgages, according to a June 13 Forbes article. This crisis reduces the younger generation’s purchasing power, making dreams of owning a house, marriage or having children a distant reality.

“I’m excited [Pritzker] signed [the bill] because it’s something I’ve agreed with for a very long time,” sophomore anthropology major Nyari Turner said. “[The] minimum wage isn’t a livable wage. If you look at any statistics, you’ll see that if you work full-time at a minimum wage job you won’t make enough to live. A lot of times you’ll see people during or straight out of school working multiple minimum wage jobs just to live in society.”

The most common critique of the bill suggests employers will not be able to afford higher wages, worsening Illinois’ financial situation.

However, the bill accounts for the loss of profit by offering tax breaks to companies, and Pritzker’s budget plan allocates money accordingly to prevent extreme shifts in consumer costs. Additionally, a majority of companies employing minimum wage employees are large chains and corporations that reap massive profits and refuse to share with the workforce, making the rich richer and employees impoverished.

“To expect people to live off of $8.25 when that is well below the poverty line, and in a country where we have so many companies having no trouble making a ton of money off of people, I don’t see why we can’t pay workers fairly,” Kevin Schaeffer, senior business operations management and information systems major, said.

For decades, students have been struggling to afford college, and this bill will provide them opportunities to live a life they’ve been conditioned to believe is out of their reach.


Keep institutions in mind with $15 minimum wage

Noah Thornburgh | Columnist

The minimum wage hike is sure to make college students happy, but keep in mind the budgets that have to adjust for it. The hike will affect more than just part-workers and recent graduates.

Think of an institution working with a fixed budget: If more money has to be allocated to pay minimum wage workers, either some of those jobs or something else is going to get cut. The institution will have to find new ways to get more money — which is exactly what some institutions are planning for.

The trustees of John Wood Community College, 1301 S. 48 St, Quincy, predicted an eventual tuition raise to compensate for the wage hike, according to a Feb. 21 report by the Herald-Whig.

As for NIU, the administration remains hopeful.

“Because [Pritzker’s] plan to raise the minimum wage calls for incremental adjustments over several years, this will allows us to plan for the increased expense and to build it into our budgeting assumptions as we move forward,” NIU spokesperson Joe King said.

The key to the plan is its incremental adjustment, which will allow the budget changes to be carefully deliberated and allow any unforeseen consequences to play out after the increase each year. Imagine the chaos if the hike happened all at once — budget nightmare.

With NIU’s enrollment on the decline, a tuition raise may be out of the question — so something else may be on the chopping block. It wouldn’t be surprising if some student jobs get reevaluated.

This would only be the case if funding remained fixed, which King said the university hopes is not the case.

“We are hopeful the state will take into account the increased costs associated with this new legislation and provide additional funding to help offset those costs,” King said.

It’d be a win for NIU if the state bumped up its funding. They could pay hard-working students more without raising tuition or cutting anything important.

We should share the administration’s hope. We’d all appreciate the extra cash, but we have to be aware of the consequences. The next year or so in budget planning will be crucial to see how things will fall into place — all that’s left is to wait and see what NIU, and the state, will do.