Vinton Thompson, President of Metropolitan College of New York
New York State has committed to phase in a $15 minimum wage, for 2018 in New York City, and a bit more slowly in the rest of the state. Nobody deserves the benefits of a $15 minimum wage more than hardworking college students with financial need. Work-study students are employed by their colleges and universities with student aid funds provided by the Federal Government, often at Federal or local minimum wage, whichever is higher.
Funding is determined by a formula that allocates a fixed total amount to each college to divide among qualifying students, based on local needs and federal guidelines. Here’s the conundrum colleges face going forward. Absent a proportional increase in federal funding, they will have to cut the hours of individual students or employ fewer students. In either case, colleges will have students working fewer hours in support of their educational mission. And, to the extent colleges employ fewer students at higher pay, eligible students who will no longer receive employment will face the prospect of making up the difference with student loans.
Across the political spectrum, there is wide agreement that student loan debt is already undesirably high. No one really wants to boost the minimum wage at the expense of low income students. It’s unlikely that the federal government will increase work-study funds to defray the increased costs. Meeting shifting minimum wage differentials across the country would be logistically difficult and politically unfeasible.
As an alternative, the State of New York should commit to supplement the Federal Work-Study programs at New York public and independent, non-profit colleges and universities, so that neither students nor institutions suffer unintended negative consequences, just as it has committed in principle to cover the wage increase for state-contracted non-profit organizations. Increasing the pay of work-study students is good thing. Increasing it at the expense of other deserving students is not.
Vinton Thompson is President of Metropolitan College of New York
About Metropolitan College of New York
Audrey Cohen, educational visionary and activist, founded the Women’s Talent Corps in 1964. Through development and training for new professional positions, the Talent Corps created employment for thousands of people. It became The College for Human Services, later Audrey Cohen College, and today Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY). For over 50 years, MCNY has continued the tradition of offering highly motivated learners an education that combines applied skills with professional knowledge to effect personal transformation and positive change in the workplace and community. MCNY is a not-for-profit, accredited, independent college. Full year-round offerings accelerate degree completion, and a unique approach to learning permits close integration of workplace activities and study. MCNY locations are in Soho/Tribeca at 431 Canal Street, New York, NY 10013 and in the Bronx at 529 Courtlandt Ave., Bronx, NY 10451. For more information on MCNY, visit www.mcny.edu or call 800.33.THINK.