Pay increases coming for student employees, graduate assistants

The contributions of the more than 10,000 student employees and 5,300 graduate assistants at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are vital to what we do, and we should do what we can to compensate them for their contributions.

Despite a difficult budget, we are making a commitment to student employees and grad assistants. As of Sept. 1, our minimum student hourly wage will go from $7.25 to $9. The federal minimum (of $7.25) is typically the bottom of our pay scale. But because the federal minimum has not increased in many years, we are going to push our minimum above the federal level.

Students are paid a range of wage levels, depending upon the job they do. The majority of our students are paid more than $9 an hour, some substantially more. But this assures that even the lowest-wage jobs pay more to students for whom on-campus work is one part of their economic support.

In addition, the university is committed to paying competitive wages to graduate assistants. This is reflected in the fact that teaching assistants and project/program assistants received a 4.67 percent increase for 2013-14 and a 2 percent increase for 2014-15, which exceeded the 1 percent per year pay plan for other university employees.

We continue to review graduate assistant compensation to make sure UW–Madison can compete for and reward top graduate students and, as of July 1, we will be increasing pay for most graduate assistants by 2 percent, at a time when other employee pay is flat.

(It should be noted that on Jan. 1, 2016, we raised our minimum hourly wage for University Staff employees to the City of Madison living wage of $12.83.)

Many of our students face difficulty with balancing classwork, studying and finding the time to work enough to pay for their expenses. Raising pay for grad assistants and student workers will help to reduce their reliance on loans and pay off their own education.

In addition to the financial benefits, campus jobs give students valuable work experience that will serve them well in their post-graduation careers. Employers tell us they look for students with the type of experience campus jobs provide.

Deans and directors of administrative units, as well the Associated Students of Madison, were all engaged in the discussion surrounding minimum wage, as were the Graduate School Academic Planning Council and the Dean’s Council with graduate students on their pay plan. I thank them for their thoughtful input and support on these important initiatives.