Student Employment, departments see small impact of minimum wage increase

December 5, 2017

Hannah Harvey

[email protected]

This year, the 90 cent increase in minimum wage has impacted UCCS in a minimal way.

    While some opponents argued that the increase in wages would be negative for Colorado, UCCS has not seen a largely negative impact to student employees since its implementation, according to Shannon Cable, director of Student Employment.

    “We’re not seeing this as a giant increase across campus because really overall we’re looking at a $1.1-$1.2 million impact over the four years, and that’s keeping us at the 2016 levels,” said Cable.

    “The campus said, ‘we can’t grow at this time, but we can maintain,’ and that’s really the goal.”

    In 2016, Colorado voters chose to implement a higher minimum wage for the state.

    The increase came in the form of Amendment 70, which passed by a 55.36 percent vote in 2016. Minimum wage will increase by 90 cents every year until it reaches $12 in 2020, according to The Denver Post.

    In 2017, minimum wage increased to $9.30 an hour. Prior to the increase, minimum wage in Colorado sat at $8.31 per hour.

      In 2017, Student Employment witnessed the smallest impact of the wage change because student employees were already earning amounts that were either close to or already the 2017 minimum wage, said Cable. However, departments are preparing to see the affects of the increase on Jan. 1, when the 2017 wage increases again by 90 cents.


Impact and Employment

    Employees will start to experience the affects of the increase in 2018, when minimum wage will increase to $10.20 an hour, according to Cable.

    “We do expect to see more of an impact to campus budgets (in 2018) with that increase because we’re starting to go into a space where our students are maybe not earning as close to that amount yet,” said Cable.

    The goal of Student Employment is to help maintain departments maintain the same number of student hours worked in the fall of 2016.

   “We, as a campus, are working to maintain the same staffing levels that we had in fall of 2016, and to do that, each department who has an impact based off of that static fall 2016 number of student hours that were worked in that department will see a slight bump in their student hourly budget,” said Cable.

     Student employees fill 1,798 positions; 2,500 student employment positions are available on campus.

     Since Amendment 70 passed, there has not been a decline in the number of student employees or the number of hours they worked, said Cable. Student employment has grown by 700 students since 2013.

     Student Employment evaluated the number of hours by department to help them maintain 2016 numbers.

    “We can’t increase the number of hours worked as a campus; we don’t have the financial ability to do that. But we made a commitment to maintain that fall 2016 number of hours,” said Cable.

    In 2018, Student Employment expects departmental budgets to be impacted. Budget changes allow departments to treat work study and hourly students the same.

   “Let’s say a student used up their work study award – the department can pay them hourly and be able to do that. So there’s no restrictions for how the department can utilize those funds except that it has to go to student hourly monies,” said Cable.

    Wages are determined by department. Student Employment opted not to create a blanket budgetary system for all departments considering that each department employs a different number of students, according to Cable.

    Departments chose what students were paid at each level based on their own compensation plan. With the system, the pay range went from minimum wage to $18 an hour. Now, the system ranges from $9.30 – $25 an hour to accommodate the minimum wage increase, which would shrink it in half.

     In classifying employees since the change, he six-level Student Assistant system has gone away because a majority of the campus only implemented levels two and three. All student employees are now classified under the same job code, 4106, at the same student assistant level to alleviate issues with paperwork and wage.


Departmental Evaluation

    Student Employment has worked with departments that employ students to reorganize their budgets and evaluate how they will allocate their money since the amendment’s passing. At UCCS, there are 120 departments.

     Of these departments, Auxiliary Services, which includes Dining and Hospitality Services, the Family Development Center, the University Center and the Bookstore, and academic positions, including the Excel Centers and some administrative offices employ the most student employees on campus.

    Departments have met with Student Employment to look at cutting costs.

    “We’ve been very excited to see the ways that departments are making a commitment to students,” said Cable. “Even in light of those minimum wage increases, we’re seeing departments take a lead on this and keep their staffing levels where they need to be.”

    The University Center, which currently employs 40-45 students, has worked on ways to cut utility costs to provide more money to student hourly pay. Employment has not increased or decreased since 2016.

    Chad Garland, director of the University Center, expects to see his number of employees grow. An additional 30 employees will be hired through the University Center after the Ent Center for the Arts opens on Jan. 2.

    “In our business, we have dramatically increased our operation, and it continues to grow, so although we would like to maintain the same hours, we just can’t,” said Garland.

    “We are supporting the daily operations of the Ent Center, so our staff will probably expand to 70 to 75 students in the spring.”

    At the UC, which hosted 20,000 events from July 1 2016 to June 30, 2017, costs have increased dramatically since the wage change, according to Garland, who said that $24,000 was lost with the increase. Next year, a total of $55,000 will be lost with the addition of the Ent Center.

    We’ve been fortunate this year. Last year, we only had a small work group of about 10 students that needed to adjust their minimum wage, because everyone else was already making minimum wage. This year, everybody on our staff come January will see an increase,” said Garland.

    The UC has also evaluated costs concerning maintenance and repairs alongside other cuts.

    “We are trying to cut costs in general. Every dollar we cut, we add $5 to wages,” said Garland.

   To cut employment costs, departments may incentivize students to work for them based on job level determined by goals to meet, for example, student manager positions, said Cable. This saves costs for the long-term by reducing turnover and training resources.

    “It allows people to really work toward those positions and so what that does is creates a pool of candidates that start out at the same wage and gives each one a fair chance at getting promoted to those next levels,” said Cable.

    One way the UC has creatively cut costs is by adding a graduate assistant to save from hiring more professional staff, said garland. The UC has also looked to add more social programming for students with music, movies and other events.

    “For the next year, I’m hoping we’re going to start to balance out. One the Ent Center opens, staffing levels will be at a spot to start to maintain at that level,” said Garland.

    The wage change can ultimately be seen as a positive for students, said Garland. At the UC, employment is more than just a job because the department invests student fee money into offering professional development opportunities for employees, according to Garland.

    “For me, everything we do in the University Center comes back to students. Students support this operation through the student fee dollars, so everything we do, I always want to make sure it has a positive impact on students, and this is no different,” said Garland.