A Further Step on Affordability - $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage for Student Workers

Date: March 24, 2016
To: THE NYU COMMUNITY
From: NYU President Andrew Hamilton

As I have continued my efforts to listen and learn about NYU, the topic that recurs most often in my meetings with students is affordability. We have already taken some steps in that direction, most notably budgeting for the lowest increase in cost-of-attendance in 20 years for 2016-17 – at 2.0%, it is a good deal lower than the increase many of our peer schools have set – and establishing a Steering Committee and a Working Group to look at new, additional ways beyond that first step to reduce the cost of NYU education for students and their families.

Although our forthcoming efforts on affordability will mainly be guided by the work of the Steering Committee, there is another early step to address affordability that has been under consideration for some time at NYU that I believe we should take – setting a minimum of $15/hour for Work Study recipients and other student workers, to be fully implemented over the next three years.

The financial assistance NYU provides students takes several forms. The most prominent is scholarship aid – NYU annually spends over $550 million per year on grant aid, and over $300 million per year on undergraduate scholarships alone; however, Work Study and other student work is part of the picture, too. Work Study – which has aspects of both financial aid and compensation – is another important way that students help pay for college, and also pay for the experiences that accompany a college education: sharing a meal out with friends, attending the cultural events for which New York is duly famous, or simply addressing the myriad expenses that come with being on one’s own at college.

As I have listened to students in various settings, I have repeatedly heard that raising the minimum hourly rate we pay to student workers is an important way to reduce the burden on families and to ease the pressure that students sometimes feel even when they are getting generous scholarship aid.

So, I have asked the Budget Office to put in place plans to raise the minimum we pay students to $15/hour over the next 3 years – for 2016-17, we will put in place a minimum of $12/hour; for 2017-18, a minimum of $13.50/hour; and for 2018-19, a minimum of $15.00/hour. I have also asked Martin Dorph, NYU’s Executive Vice President for Finance and Information Technology, to examine our student pay practices so that – in addition to setting new, higher minimums – the setting of pay levels for student work is logical and effective, and the hiring process is straightforward. The decision to increase the minimum wage we pay student workers is the result of a consultative process that brought us to this point and will continue.

I should note that all of NYU’s full-time employees and the full-time employees of vendors who have a major presence on campus – such as facilities and food service workers – already receive at least $15/hour, as do graduate student workers.
As you may know, the matter of setting $15/hour as the minimum wage for New York State is being discussed by political leaders now in Albany. Even if there is not agreement on this issue, or if the agreement calls for a longer time frame, NYU will move forward with its plans. And, of course, should state legislation call for a quicker time frame, we will comply with that.

The affordability of a college education is a national issue; it is certainly a pressing and keenly felt one on our own campus. I see raising the minimum wage for student workers to $15/hour – in combination with our actions on cost-of-attendance and the establishment of the Steering Committee – as part of the range of actions and ideas we will be focusing on as a campus community to address affordability for NYU students and families.