The University of Maryland sets a minimum wage of $15 for student workers


Last year, Vivian Flanagan was exhausted from her campus job at the University of Maryland: the hours were brutal, with some shifts starting or ending at 3am, causing her to struggle through classes. She worried about handling packages and working directly with so many students amid the Omicron wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

And at about $12 an hour, she thought, “I’m not getting paid enough for this.”

She was hardly alone in her frustration. In November, more than 1,200 U-Md. Students signed a petition created by the campus chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops to support a campus-wide minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Flanagan was thrilled when the university’s president announced at the start of classes in College Park this week that the minimum wage for working students would rise starting in January.

“Oh my god — I really didn’t expect that to happen,” she said. “I’m really, very excited.”

In a message to the campus community, U-Md. President Darryll J. Pines called the increase in the minimum wage “a significant, multimillion-dollar investment in a key pillar of our strategic plan: investing in people and communities.”

Pines said over the phone that for reasons of equity, we “think it’s important that we listen to our communities and address their wage concerns.” University leaders want to accelerate a state timetable to increase wages, he said, and ensure students can support themselves in a metropolitan area with such a high cost of living.

Pines said that “our administration has been focused on this issue since before the student council.”

The state of Maryland is raising the minimum wage to $15 for most hourly workers by 2025. And last year, the University System of Maryland — which includes the College Park campus — approved a $15 minimum wage for most of its employees.

But many working students got stuck at the old salary level.

The Maryland university system allows a minimum wage of $15 for most employees

A spokeswoman for the university told U-Md. has about 4,300 student employees, some of whom are earning $12.50 an hour until the new rate goes into effect next year. Others, typically those who help faculty members with research assignments, are already making upwards of $15 an hour.

Flanagan, a member of the United Students Group and student leader, helped push a bill passed by the school’s Residence Hall Association and called for an increase in their wages after hearing from students who relied on their campus jobs, to pay for food and rent. Some had to borrow to cover living expenses. In July, as a rising senior, she said she learned her department’s wages would rise to $15 an hour.

Scholarships for graduate assistantships also increased this year to nearly $31,000 a year in addition to tuition, said Joey Haavik, 26, who is studying international education policy in a master’s program.

According to the administration, the minimum scholarship for research assistants increased by more than 26 percent in 2022 and by more than 50 percent in the past four years.

Haavik, President of the Graduate Student Government, said that tuition was one of the things that drew him to U-Md. — but that he has to live with his parents in Columbia, Md. because the stipend isn’t enough to cover rent, books, fees, and other expenses.

“It’s not a financially practical decision to live in College Park on this scholarship,” he said. “A financial advisor wouldn’t recommend it.”

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U Md. Executives have supported students campaigning for better pay, said Ayelette Halbfinger, 22, the student body president, challenging how to fund a raise.

She has worked part-time throughout her entire undergraduate career — but not on campus. The pay was better elsewhere.

As for Flanagan, she quit the crazy hours job and took another in the same department. “The move to another job and the pay increase,” she said, “has really improved my life drastically.”

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