Education

Oregon State Universities Brace For Incoming Minimum Wage

Oregon state universities warned lawmakers Tuesday a recently enacted $13.50 minimum wage could put undue stress on their budgets.

Lawmakers designed the measure to phase in overtime with the aim of reaching $13.50 an hour by 2022. State universities, however, employ many of their own students at the minimum wage which makes the increase very problematic. Universities officials are urging the state to address the problem before it’s too late.

“We do anticipate a budgetary impact due to the minimum wage increase,” Southern Oregon University Spokesman Ryan Brown told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “If the Oregon legislature does not allocate funds to cover the additional costs associated with the minimum wage increase, funds to cover this additional cost would come from tuition revenue.”

Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill into law last week after lawmakers quickly pushed it through the legislature. It will also bring the Portland-area minimum wage to $15.52. The measure puts Oregon on track to have the highest state level minimum wage in the entire country. President Barack Obama even commended Brown for signing the measure into law.

“The minimum wage increase primarily impacts student employees,” a Portland State University representative told TheDCNF. “The cost for the next fiscal year is minimal because on average our students are paid more than the first step in the increased minimum wage. Over the 2017-2019 biennium, salary costs are expected to increase by approximately $2.5 million.”

Portland State employs 2,046 student employees and 817 graduate assistants for a variety of different jobs. Students working for their college is a very common practice across the country. It allows students to gain experience before graduating while allowing the school to foster a community as opposed to seeking outside help.

“They are working all over campus doing everything from administrative and research support to student-teaching at the child care center,” the Portland State representative continued. “The graduate assistants are doing research, teaching and admin jobs related to their field and mostly already earn more than $12.50 an hour.”

Oregon universities collectively pay thousands of student workers the minimum wage, according to The Oregonian. The increase could cost the state public education system millions in the coming years. Other state universities have noted they are likely going to have to make budget cuts.

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