Hannah Poturalski

The pockets of Miami University student employees will be lined with a little more money at the start of the new year.

Chuck Knepfle, assistant provost and director of student financial assistance, said the Ohio Department of Commerce (ODC) increased the minimum wage from $7 per hour to $7.30 per hour.

According to the Ohio Department of Commerce Web site, the constitutional amendment to increase Ohio’s minimum wage passed as a ballot issue in November 2006. It will increase by the rate of inflation on Jan. 1 every year.

According to Knepfle, the change will be seen in the pay period beginning Dec. 20-or the first pay period that includes 2009.

Knepfle said every year the ODC adjusts the minimum wage to reflect the consumer price index. For the past couple years, Ohio’s minimum wage has always been higher than the federal rate and according to the U.S. department of labor Web site, the higher rate is the one employers are required to use. According to the Web site, the federal minimum wage for 2009 will be $7.25 per hour.

“(At Miami), 2,300 students in the lowest two pay bands will be receiving a raise,” Knepfle said.

Knepfle said student aides and student assistants will see a pay increase while the rest of the pay bands will stay the same.

“We wanted to have some differentiation between the bottom three pay bands,” Knepfle said.

With more than 2,000 students receiving an additional 30 cents per hour, the overall cost of this wage increase will be pricey, especially in the current economic situation, Knepfle said.

“The increase in student wage rates is absorbed into the existing approved budget of each department,” Donna Rohlfer, university budget analyst, said.

According to Knepfle, this means employees are funded by the department that hires them. However Knepfle said each department will not be given any money from the university to help pay for the wage increase, it has to come out of the department’s budget.

Knepfle said this may also mean shorter hours and fewer positions for student workers or those working at minimum wage. Knepfle said in the past the university would have refilled jobs after a student graduated or didn’t want to return, but now some of those positions won’t be filled.

“Every year each department turns their budget into the university to see if there are new ways to save,” Knepfle said. “If every budget is raised across the board, departments might have to lay off workers.”

Knepfle said it will be the larger departments, those that employ the most students, to be impacted the most by the increase.

For example, the Recreational Sports Center (RSC) and Goggin Ice Arena employ 450 students at any one time, according to Knepfle.

“The wage increase will affect us quite a bit,” Doug Curry, director of the RSC, said. “We will be doing belt tightening in some areas, but we anticipate having the same number of student workers next year. We can’t run our facility without them.”

Judy Worley, manager of financial operations for the RSC, said the wage increase wasn’t in the budget for this year and it will have to be implemented and absorbed somehow.

Curry agreed and said in the future the RSC will be planning for a percentage increase in the student wages.

Student associate and above remain the same. Only the lowest two pay bands, consisting of student aides and student associates, will see an increase.