- More colleges are raising their minimum hourly wages amid pressure for campus workers' pay to reflect cost of living increases and ahead of state legislation that would gradually raise the rate.
- Among the latest to do so are James Madison University, a public institution in Virginia, and the private Washington University of St. Louis (WashU), with new $12 and $15 minimums, respectively.
- WashU's increase will benefit roughly 1,200 employees and contractors, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. At James Madison, the change will boost the pay of around 100 full-time employees.
Colleges are raising their rates in response to pressure from students as well as legislation calling for minimum wage increases in some states.
The recent announcements from James Madison and WashU follow news earlier this year that the University of Virginia would pay a $15 minimum wage to full-time employees in its academic division and medical center starting January 2020. Some advocates pushing for the change hoped to raise the rate higher, to $16.84.
U of Virginia said the change would benefit around 1,400 workers and cost $3.5 million annually, funded with existing resources. The university noted it would need to find "cost savings and efficiencies" elsewhere. James Madison expects its minimum wage increase to cost $75,263 annually.
WashU will gradually increase its minimum wage by $1 to $2 per year until it reaches $15 in 2021. However, local media reports say the change does not affect graduate students, a group that was outspoken in the push for the increase.
Graduate students' ability to rally for higher pay could become more difficult as the National Labor Relations Board has said it will put forward a rule on the issue that observers expect will make it harder for that group to unionize.
Many colleges are gearing up for minimum wage increases in their states. In 15 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that recently announced such plans, the paychecks of one in 10 college staff will get a boost, according to a recent report from an industry human resources group. One in four employees will benefit in six states and the district where a $15 minimum is planned.
Missouri, where WashU is located, will raise its minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2023 from $8.60 currently. However, in Virginia, home to U of Virginia and James Madison, legislators earlier this year voted down a bill that would have increased the state’s base hourly wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $15 by 2021.
Analyses of minimum wage hikes across the country suggest the increases may not trigger job losses as feared. A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office on proposals for a $15 federal minimum wage said it could put up to 3.7 million people out of a job, though it noted there was "considerable uncertainty" about the effects of such increases on job cuts.