November 4, 2022 | NEWS | By Eli Jaynes
In July of this year, Colorado College increased its campus minimum wage for all full-time employees. Full-time staff must now earn at least $17 an hour, and on-call or occasional staff make at least $15 an hour.
According to a letter from CC’s Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Robert Moore, a significant portion of the college’s available funds for pay increases this year were applied to employees in the lowest pay bands.
Staff salaries at CC are calculated based on a structure of pay bands, with band one being the lowest paid and band 12 being the highest paid. Before the college’s $17 minimum wage went into effect in July, employees in band one could be paid as little as Colorado’s state minimum wage of $12.56 an hour. For reference, a full-time employee making $12.56 an hour will earn $26,182 per year, according to the college’s staff salary structure.
The pay bump in July brought all full-time staff up to at least $17 an hour, and also raised all salaries in bands one through six by at least 2.5%.
This recent pay increase aligns, at least in part, with one of the recent demands brought forward by students to address mental health on campus. Students called on the college to adequately compensate staff so that no hard-working member of our campus community makes less than a living wage. $17 per hour just barely clears the threshold of a living wage in Colorado Springs, but remains below a living wage in Denver, according to data from MIT.
This new minimum does not apply to third-party contractors that work on campus – think Bon Appetite or Sodexo workers – though Associate Vice President for Finance Lori Seager said in a conversation with The Catalyst that the college does have some influence over how much those employees are paid.
While wages are rising for some of CC’s hard-working and long-underpaid campus employees, student workers have not seen any jump in pay.
CC currently employs about 1,000 students in an array of essential roles. Shannon Amundson, who directs Financial Aid, informed The Catalyst that there are numerous campus activities that simply couldn’t happen without those student workers. She also stressed that student employment is in a completely separate category from campus staff and that wages for those two groups of workers are not at all linked.
Other schools in Colorado, like UCCS and CU Boulder, have instituted minimum wages for their student employees at $14 and $15 per hour, respectively. Amundson noted that state schools receive much more money from the state and federal government to pay student workers, while CC must pay its student employees with its own dollars.
For that reason, Amundson said raising student wages would require reallocating money from elsewhere on campus or changing how student employment is run.
“Either they’re going to have to find money from somewhere to increase those budgets, or you’re going to have less students working for more pay,” Amundson said. “Money is a finite resource, so it has to come from one or the other.”
Amundson said that the college was paying student employees somewhere around $1.8 million each year before the COVID-19 pandemic. She thinks it has returned to around that amount, or slightly higher, this year with students back on campus.
Assuming the college is paying students about $1.8 million – given that’s the last full year of data available – Amundson estimates that raising the student wage from its baseline at $12.56 an hour to $14 an hour would cost the college roughly $225,000 to $250,000 a year. For reference, CC’s endowment is around $950 million.
Seager and Amundson both said that there are talks about providing more money for student employment in the future, though neither were sure of the details. In the meantime, student workers can look forward to the Colorado minimum wage jumping up to $13.65 in January.