In January, minimum wage in California was raised to $7.50 an hour. However, Yuba College and Woodland Community College student workers were unaffected. Their minimum wage remained at $6.75 an hour until March, three months after the new standard wage had been implemented throughout the state.
Federal exemptions allow California community colleges to pay their student workers less than minimum wage.
According to exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act, a type of certificate can be issued to employers by the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division that allows for full-time students to be employed at sub-minimum wages in the institutions of higher education that they are attending. The sub-minimum wage rate for full-time students may not be less than 85 percent of the applicable statutory minimum wage.
Also, if students are employed on a part-time basis pursuant to a bona-fide vocational education training program, employers may obtain a certificate from the U.S. Department Labor, Wage and Hour Division, and pay no less than 75 percent of the minimum wage.
However, according to Al Alt, the Yuba Community College District’s Director of Personnel Services, the district tries to make sure that its students are paid at least minimum wage. Alt said that the district wants the employment here to be as attractive as employment off campus because it is more convenient for students’ class schedules.
“We are not bound by the law to pay minimum wage, but we do move our salary schedules up to meet minimum wage,” Alt said.
The student worker pay scale was raised March 1 to accommodate the change, but according to Alt, “this change has made us move some of the steps out.”
Previously student workers enjoyed a three-step pay scale, beginning at $6.75 an hour, then $7.25 an hour, and finally at $7.75 an hour. Beginning in March, however, student workers saw no difference between the first two steps of the pay scale, each set at the new state minimum wage of $7.50 an hour. The third step remains at $7.75 an hour.
Essentially, the first two steps of the student pay scale have been compounded in one, and the third step remains unaffected by the new state wage increase. However, on July 1, the district plans to make another adjustment to restore the step placements, with increments of at least 25 cents between each step for student workers.
A student’s placement on the pay scale, according to Alt, is dependent on his or her skills and the requirements of the job. When a student moves up a step on the pay scale is at the manager’s discretion.
Concerned that some of the library student workers were being paid below the new state minimum wage, David Freiler, Yuba College librarian, attempted to move the library student workers up the 2006 pay scale. However, while Freiler was moving students up the pay scale, the district stepped forward to implement the adjusted 2007 pay scale.
“I thought the students warranted minimum wage,” Freiler said. “They are worth minimum wage. They work hard for us.”
Another state minimum wage adjustment is planned for January 2008, at which time the minimum wage will be $8 an hour. At that time, according to Alt, there will be no three-month waiting period for Yuba College or Woodland College students.
“We are ahead of schedule for the next increase in minimum wage,” Alt said.
He predicted that next year the district would implement three distinct amounts for each level of the student worker pay scale with increments of at least 25 cents above the new increased minimum wage.
While many of the district’s students may have had to wait to be paid minimum wage this year, District Chancellor Nikki Harrington did not have to wait for her pay increase. Harrington received a 4.75 percent Cost of Living Adjustment increase in her salary in July 2006, as a result of a decision made by the Board of Trustees on June 14.
Six months later in January, Harrington received another pay raise, this time a 5.28 percent salary increase-which was worth $10,115-at the discretion of the Board of Trustees. As a result of the two raises, Harrington’s salary is currently approximately $201,694 annually.
Student workers can look forward to getting a minimum wage of $8 an hour next January.