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Sunday, October 17, 2021

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UR prepares for minimum wage increase

<p>The Queally Center, which is home of the Financial Aid office and admissions office.&nbsp;</p>

The Queally Center, which is home of the Financial Aid office and admissions office. 

University of Richmond Student Employment, which is within the Financial Aid office, is set to raise student employee wages after the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation last spring to gradually increase the state's minimum wage in the coming months and years.

On July 1, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation presented by the Virginia General Assembly to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour. The original bill advocated for the increase to go into effect Jan. 1 this year, but Northam in April 2020 proposed delaying the increase until May 1, 2021, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The assembly accepted the proposed amendment. 

The bill is also set to increase the minimum wage four more times in the following five years, to $11 in 2022, $12 in 2023, $13.50 in 2025 and $15 in 2026.

“[The bill has] been on our radar for a while,” Mike Pagano, assistant director of the Office of Financial Aid, said.  “To be honest, there’s still some things we need to figure out ... [but] we are certainly going to raise the minimum wage for student jobs.”

The current minimum wage for UR students is $8 — 75 cents higher than the current state and federal minimum wages of $7.25. According to UR’s Student Employment page, “the rate of pay for each job is determined by the specific responsibilities of the job, as stipulated in the job description.”

UR has a four-tier wage rate structure, with Level I jobs paying $8-9.50 an hour, Level II jobs paying $8.80-10.50, Level III jobs paying $9.30- $11.30 and Level IV jobs paying $11.05-13.50.

“The wage level starts at eight dollars, so we’re not sure if we’ll still have four levels [after the minimum wage increase],” Pagano said. “Departments, they set the hiring range, so obviously what’s gonna happen is the range is going to be brought up.”

Despite setting wage regulations and approving students to work, Student Employment does not set the wages for each specific job on campus, instead relaying that responsibility to each of the 140+ departments who hire students according to Pagano. His office provides the departments with a generic outline, but they ultimately get to pick which of their jobs falls into which wage tier. 

“It all comes down to areas of responsibility,” said Jennifer McLeod, employment coordinator for the Health and Well-being Unit. “Our lower-tier employees are gonna be the ones that have less responsibility [such as those who are] folding towels or cleaning equipment. On the higher end, we have facility supervisors that have to man the building when the full-time staff aren’t there.” 

McLeod's department is one of the biggest on campus, employing around 150 to 160 students within the University Recreation Department, Health and Well-being Unit, Health Promotion and Student Health, she said.

The Health and Well-being Unit contains jobs that fall into each of the four wage tiers, McLeod said.

McLeod said an example of a Level I job in her department would be an office attendant responsible for making copies and filing documents, while a Level II job would be any type of assistant, such as a budget assistant or an office assistant. A Level III job would be that of a specialist, such as a lifeguard or someone who works alongside the budget coordinator, and a Level IV job would be the aforementioned facility supervisor, who is in charge of the building when the full-time staff are not there.

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Virginia is currently one of 21 states with a $7.25 minimum wage — the lowest in the country. With many UR students coming from states with higher minimum wages such as Illinois ($9.25), New Jersey ($11) and Massachusetts($12.75), this raise in minimum wage will bring some student employees' pay to a level they are more familiar with.

“Coming from a state that has [a] higher minimum wage, there won’t be any [more] losses that I have to have when I work here,” sophomore Elle Lee, from Colorado, said regarding the minimum wage increase. 

Lee currently works as a tech assistant within the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business, she said. The position pays her an hourly wage of $10 and falls under the Level II-tier. As a student employee on campus, Lee is excited to see the minimum wage go up in Virginia. 

“I’d be happy about it,” Lee said. “I think that’ll help out the students a lot.”

Contact sports editor Krystian Hajduczka at krystian.hajduczka@richmond.edu.

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