State Minimum Wage Increases to Affect Student and Local Workers

The New York State Division of the Budget recently issued its report on the minimum wage rate increase from $12.50 to $13.20 per hour, scheduled to take effect on Dec. 31, a move that will impact all minimum wage workers employed by the University and at local businesses in the Town of Hamilton, including students with on-campus jobs and work-study employment as part of their financial aid packages.

According to the Student Employment page of the university website, “10-12 hours of work per week will be sufficient to meet a student’s job award or basic personal expenses.” Students may work more than 12 hours per week, though they are barred from exceeding 20 hours per week working for the university during the academic calendar. 

“Every year since 2016, minimum wage has been going up,” Associate Vice President for Human Resources Lori Chlad said. “Prior to that, it has gone up as well. It hasn’t started happening every year since recently, there’s been a real effort to be updating the minimum wage.”

The minimum wage in upstate New York has gone up by 26.5% since 2016, with rates scheduled to increase each year on Dec. 31 until reaching $15.00, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

University jobs for students are categorized in one of four grades that are delineated based on required difficulty attributed by Colgate. Wages increase for each year a student works a certain job to compensate for learned experience. In the past, students working their first year in a grade one job earned a wage in line with the state minimum wage and wages rose $0.05 every year on the job. According to the student wage rates linked on the university’s website, a student currently working their first year in a grade one position earns $12.50 an hour, while a student working their fourth year in a grade four position currently earns $12.95 an hour. With the new minimum wage of $13.20, these rates will change. 

“The University has a legal council and we get updates from them all the time,” Chlad said. “So I think it was on Sept. 29, we got an update that New York state had adjusted minimum wage effective Dec. 31, 2021, which initiates us going out to departments and saying minimum wage is increasing.”

Colgate is typically notified before the start of the academic year, according to Director of Human Resources Operations Jill Dinski. The Human Resources department plans to send out an email with the new wage scale as part of the minimum wage increase. 

“Historically, it had already been introduced, so we knew what to expect and we could take it into consideration at the start of the academic year,” Dinski said. “That’s why we are making a mid-year adjustment to wages instead of implementing prior. It is quite a bit of work for us mid-academic year to be making wage changes.”

Students work for various departments on campus, and each department submits an operating budget incorporating the cost of student workers. According to Chlad, every department is responsible for its student employees. Office of Sustainability Intern and junior Rebecca Hance commented on the current minimum wage rate. 

“I work at the Office of Sustainability, and I get paid $12.70 an hour,” Hance said. “[My boss Pamela Gramlich, assistant director of sustainability and environmental studies program coordinator] approves my timesheets every week, but it also gets approved by Human Resources. There is not a universal salary for student employment here, so people employed by different departments definitely make different amounts of money. But, it’s pretty universally close to minimum wage.”

Outside of on-campus positions, some students work for local businesses in the Village of Hamilton. According to senior Molly Mysogland, who has worked at Maxwells Chocolates and Ice Cream Shoppe for the last three years, the wage increase may prove especially helpful for small businesses in town.

“I think this will be great for the businesses and employees in town, especially considering how many businesses have been so short-staffed,” Mysogland said. “With the pay increase, maybe it [will] convince some people to seek out more local positions. That being said, I don’t feel as though it’s a big enough increase to change the commitments of part-time workers like myself.”

Some students in town get paid a “tipped wage,” or a base wage paid to an employee who receives a substantial portion of their compensation from tips. Senior Elizabeth Pezzuto, an employee at The Rye Berry in downtown Hamilton, spoke to the impending wage increase.

“I am working [in the] front of the house and have [a] tipped wage. My employer has had one-on-one meetings with me to discuss my wage and always makes sure I am doing okay and does everything to help,” Pezzuto said. “I don’t think it’s good or bad […] Being in the middle of a pandemic, things are hard, but [raising] pay is also going to raise the price of goods. So it’s a double-edged sword.”