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Between cash and the classroom: How students respond to a higher minimum wage

The minimum wage for employees across Michigan was changed from $8.50 to $8.90 on Jan. 1, 2017.

The minimum wage for employees across Michigan was changed from $8.50 to $8.90 on Jan. 1, 2017.

Shane Grodzicki, Contributor

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Being poor is part of being in college. But summer is the time where most students try to make some extra cash by working minimum wage jobs. Jan. 1, 2017 brought the minimum wage up by 40 cents to $8.90, allowing a higher income for students.

While the raise doesn’t seem like a great deal more of income, especially compared to the colossus of student loans, it does help students by compensating for the increasing expenses of textbooks, high-priced vehicle insurance, and reinforces the wallet to nurture a social life.

Known as Act 138, the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act was passed by the Michigan legislature on May 27, 2014. Following the most recent installment, the third and final wage increase of Act 138 is scheduled to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2018.

Although the higher income is certainly nice, it can also come with a price.

“Know your limits,” sophomore Bethany Griffith said. “Make sure that you manage your time well between work and school.”

The last thing we want is to fall into a slow downward spiral from feeling overworked. Griffith’s words serve to remind that a college job is a means to set yourself up for a better future; she feels that academic success should always remain a top priority.

But even for those who are not so lucky to find a career immediately after graduation, the taste might not be so bitter.

Many petitioners tried to enact a bill that would increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. It was also one of presidential-hopeful Bernie Sanders’ campaign goals.

Not only would this assist low-wage workers falling below the poverty line, but it would also make the prospect of paying for tuition considerably easier for students.

However, not everyone is so quick to agree on the means to achieve this goal. Oakland University professor of economics, Jonathan Silberman suggests that a fifteen dollar an hour bump in minimum wage would offset the job market.

The price of goods would become much greater, and companies unable to pay the additional expenses for their employees would cut jobs.

Silberman instead indicates that a direct wage subsidy is a more reasonable alternative. This means that for every dollar earned per hour, low-wage workers would receive extra compensation from the government with each paycheck. To the worker this would seem like raised earnings, all while bypassing extra pressure on an employer to increase payroll.

To the hard-working student, this may sound like a good deal eitherway, but it will require some patience.

There are no policies presently circulating in congress to create a truly significant increase of income for low-wage workers.

There is a silver lining, however. Freshman Nautica Prater isn’t worried. She advised other students to not let it stress them out either.

“Try not to stress too much about it, choose to make it work for you,” Prater said.

In other words: Keep doing what you’ve always done.

On that fateful day when you’re dressed from head to toe in black and gold, and a mass of tasseled caps come cascading back down from the rafters, you’ll know that you have come out that much stronger. Until then, keep flipping those burgers and scooping that ice cream while you finish your degree.

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