Some of the UW-Madison students who serve food in dining halls, staff the desks at campus libraries, work in research labs or lead class discussion sections will soon see bigger paychecks, campus officials announced Tuesday.
Starting next fall, the minimum wage for student employees will increase from $7.25 to $9 per hour, the university said, while graduate assistants, whose work includes teaching and research, will see a 2 percent pay raise starting in July.
It’s unclear how many of the more than 10,000 student employees at UW-Madison will benefit from the change — spokesman Greg Bump said 44 students made $7.25 per hour as of October 2015, and 2,571 were paid less than $9 an hour.
Bump said increasing the minimum wage is expected to cost $550,000 each year. He added most students work for the campus’ auxiliary units, such as UW Housing or the Wisconsin Union, which use their own revenue — not state funding from tax dollars — to pay employees.
“Raising the minimum hourly student wage to $9 will hopefully provide an extra financial cushion, help them pay for their own education and reduce their reliance on loans,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said.
The pay increase for graduate assistants — a category of employees that includes teaching, research and project assistants — shows UW-Madison is “committed to paying competitive wages” to those workers, campus officials said in a statement announcing the raises.
But Sergio González, co-president of the Teaching Assistants Association, said that even after the raise, pay for graduate assistants at UW-Madison will still lag the compensation for those at competing universities such as Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and California-Berkeley.
Because of increases in the cost of living, health care and student fees, the TAA estimated UW-Madison would have had to raise pay by nearly 14 percent in order to give graduate assistants a stipend with the same buying power as the one they had in 2002, González said.
“While a 2 percent raise is better than nothing … the wages that we’re at right now are nowhere near competitive with other universities,” González said.
Pay for graduate assistants varies by position, but once the raises are in effect will be based on a full-time rate that ranges from $31,297 per year for a standard teaching assistant or program assistant, to $44,162 annually for a research assistant working year-round.
González pointed out assistants only make a certain percentage of that income, however, based on their appointment at the university. UW-Madison currently limits graduate assistants to 75 percent of full-time, meaning the most they can make in a year ranges from $23,473 to $33,121.
UW-Madison is also working on several major changes to how it pays graduate assistants, one of which would reduce the maximum appointment to 50 percent of full time.
The new policy, which is set to go into effect in May 2017, would also allow schools and departments that have the money to give graduate assistants bigger stipends.
Administrators say the policy will allow for more competitive pay for in-demand graduate assistants, but the TAA says it could lead to unequal pay across different fields of study.