Student employees deserve more

By Editorial Board

Having a job on campus is more than a source of income for Columbia students. Certain positions offer invaluable, real-life experience students could not receive at a typical off-campus part-time job.

Columbia sets a 20-hour weekly limit for on-campus positions, which provides more employment opportunities for students than if the cap were not in place. Undergraduate student employees are paid $8.75 an hour, 50 cents more than the current minimum wage in Illinois, which is generous compared to what some other campuses offer.

While a limited workweek and set pay rate are designed to keep jobs fair, these regulations actually create an imbalance in campus employment.

Different on-campus positions require varying skill sets, levels of experience and commitment, so the same pay rate shouldn’t be applicable to all jobs. Certain student positions afford the opportunity to spend part of a shift working on homework or surfing social networking sites, while other positions demand much more effort, like the job of collecting Columbia’s recycling.

Some students regularly put in more than 20 hours per week—hours that go unpaid.

Instead of providing so many new scholarships open to a limited number of students, if the budget was shifted toward on-campus jobs, it would create funding more students could take advantage of. Columbia could follow in the footsteps of the professional world and other schools—like DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago—which vary pay rates according to job demands and employee experience.

The 20-hour cap also could be reconsidered. While some positions require five or 10 hours, others could and do use students for 30 to 40 hours a week. Columbia should create more part-time student staff worker positions, which allow pay for up to 30 hours a week.

Columbia could look into offering internship credit for students who put in more than 20 hours. Internships require gaining real-life experience, working with a professional in the field and in the case of paid positions, going above and beyond the specific job requirements.

Columbia does a wonderful job hiring professionals as teachers. Positions in which students work more than 20 hours could be advised by these professionals to meet internship requirements.

Making these changes to the student employment pay structure would reward students who take on particularly difficult jobs and affirm the value of hard work Columbia tries to instill in its students.