Board Discussing Minimum Wage Increase for Student Workers

The Santa Monica College Board of Trustees discussed an increase in the minimum wage for student workers in compliance with the city of Santa Monica's July minimum wage ordinance at Tuesday's regular meeting.

The school's minimum wage falls under state jurisdiction, which is on a schedule to increase to $11/hour beginning January 1, 2018.

Student Trustee Chase Matthews raised the issue to the board in hopes of securing a livable wage for the over 200 students currently working at SMC. The increase would align with what minimum wage workers are now beingpaid in Santa Monica, mirroring the decision of the city of Los Angeles in January, where wages rose to $12/hour on July 1, 2017.

"Many students are very curious as to why they aren't being paid the minimum wage that is set by our city of Santa Monica," Matthews said. "Legally, the college falls under state jurisdiction. Unfortunately, we fall under the cost of living for Santa Monica city."

The board has the option to voluntarily comply with the city schedule, and such a decision would take effect at the start of 2018, as the current schedule is also set to increase at that time.

According to Vice President of Human Resources, Marcia Wade, SMC budgeted close to $2.1 million for student workers during the 2017-18 fiscal year. Wade mentions that the money comes in part from the general fund, federal work-study allocations and grant money for student help.

"If there's to be a recommendation and approval to comply with the city, then that's going to have an impact. Right now we have students' hours that vary between 10 and 15 hours a week, they cannot work more than 20 hours per week during school cause the priority is success in their studies," Wade said.

Given the tight budget situation on campus, that $2,089,000 fund is unlikely to change and the board would face a personnel decision if hourly wages go up.

"From what Vice President Wade said, if you were to reduce the number of student workers and have the same amount of money, you would reduce it (workers) by 89 students," Trustee Louise Jaffe said. "I was kind of shocked to see how high that number is. The other thing you could do instead of losing job positions is you would lose hours."

Jaffe said her concern with that situation is a possible lowering in collective production from student workers. The board expressed a desire during their discussion to explore the value of losing those hours.

Jaffe also pointed out though that this may not be a bad thing for student workers, as they could make the same amount of money in less time, which would free them up to focus on schoolwork and other activities. 

Matthews also recognized that scenario, and said that he hopes the issue comes up again at either the November or December board meetings.

"There's so many benefits to being able to amass the same amount of money per student in a quicker amount of time," said Matthews. "Not only does it save (students) time, but it optimizes their time."