Students wages on campus fall short of living wage

Illustration by Sydney Smith

Boise State University employs roughly 2,146 students, according to Public Records Coordinator Office of the General Counsel, Robert Aldelson. As colleges become increasingly expensive, and the cost of living continues to rise, the question is: are student wages keeping up?

Kaitlyn Conklin, a current sophomore majoring in integrated media, is one of these on campus student workers. Conklin works around 20-25 hours a week between two jobs at Boise State. 

Conklin works at the Boise State Bronco Shop as a sales associate and works concessions at the Extra Mile arena. Conklin earns $14 an hour plus tips at concessions, and earns $11.50 an hour at the Bronco Shop. Conklin, like many others, chose on campus jobs because they better accommodate student needs.

“I don’t have a car this year, nor did I have one last year. So I just like the convenience of it (on campus jobs) and how nice they are when it comes to scheduling,” Conklin said. “I get almost all of the time off that I request or that I need for both my classes and other activities that I have on campus.”

For Conklin, who does not have to pay rent, the wages are manageable, but she believes that they are lower than wages for similar jobs off campus. 

“I definitely think on campus wages could be better … I think for the people who have to pay rent, or either cover some of their tuition or stuff like that, it’s definitely hard to save money with those wages, because they are lower than normal wages that you would get with off campus jobs,” Conklin said. “I don’t have to pay for my rent or anything like that. But I definitely know that if I did, I would be struggling a little bit more, even with working both of those jobs.”

Emily Seats, a senior marketing major and fellow Bronco Shop sales associate, is only able to cover necessities with her on campus job, where she earns $11.50. Seats works at an unpaid internship in addition to working on campus. According to Seats, she is unable to save money and pay for basic necessities at the same time.

“I don’t believe this is a fair [or] livable wage. I believe this because when the paycheck comes in every other week it feels like … most of what I am being paid is being used for groceries or other shopping necessities,” Seats said. “There are always scenarios in which I end up not saving the remainder of the paycheck and then must rely on the next paycheck. It can be hard at times doing this because [I] need to account for different things as well as figuring out what [I] may have left from that paycheck.”

At the On-Campus and Part-Time job fair in the quad on Aug. 23, several stands offered various pay ranges for starting positions. ExtraMile Arena’s pay is set depending on the job, starting at $15 an hour for daily work, and during an event pay jumps to $18. Boise Dining’s part-time retail jobs like Chick-Fil-A or Subway start at $15. SUB employees for the operations and game center are paid $11 an hour, while managers are at $13.50. 

Katie Doughtery, is sophomore criminal justice major and a Bronco Shop sales associate, originally from California. For her, the difference in pay between the two states was an adjustment.

“My job back there was like $16 an hour so compared to that it’s definitely a difference. I think the pay could be a little bit better because like when you think about it, like you’re doing two hours of work for like 20 bucks,” Doughtery said. “I know compared to back home, I’m losing like 10 bucks I could be making like if I was in California.”

Idaho ranks 42nd among the United States for annual average income, and is one of the 20 U.S. states that have not adopted a minimum wage higher than $7.25 an hour. Current living wage estimates put a living wage for Boise, Idaho at a minimum of $16.75 an hour for a single adult working full time,while $7.25 per hour is only 72 cents above poverty wages. 

However, many businesses hire above the minimum wage in Idaho. Recent reports from the Idaho Department of Labor 2023 statistics said that on average, Idaho workers were compensated $24.69 per hour. The BVEP claims in 2022 the average was $23.77. In contrast, the lowest wage was $8.84.

In an email interview with The Arbiter, City of Boise labor economist Samuel Wolkenhaur shared some insight on increased wages in Idaho.  

“Wages in Idaho have been rising steadily year after year, even though the federal minimum wage hasn’t been changed since 2009, and these wage increases are being driven by competition in the labor market. So we would say that wages in Idaho are set by the market, not by the state,” Wolkenhaur wrote.

Seats believes that student wages should more closely resemble the off-campus wages. 

“I think that wages on campus should be higher because a lot of people that work on campus are also working a second job so that they can have a living,” Seats said. “By giving higher wages on campus it can allow for students to stay longer and also allows for certain places on campus to hire more people because of the pay that they are offering.”

Leave a Reply