Editorial: Short Changed?

Editorial Cartoon for February 18, 2014.

Editorial Staff

THE ISSUE: House Bill 1, which recently passed the United StatesHouse of Representatives, is seeking to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016. If this measure passes, according to a Herald article on Feb. 11, it will cost the university about $421,000 the first year. By the biennial’s end, the measure will cost the university an added $862,000. 

 OUR STANCE: Should this increase in minimum wage occur, it will inevitably affect WKU. Particularly, cuts will inevitably be made in order to handle the debt the university is facing.

We hope that should cuts be made, administrators don’t see student jobs and student workers as the most expendable jobs, and therefore the first jobs to be cut in order to save money.

We work on campus for a reason: we need to get by, too. 

But first: in order to understand how this minimum wage increase will affect us in the future, we must understand past minimum wage amounts. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, prior to July 24, 2007, the U.S. minimum wage was only $5.15 per hour. 

Yes, the value of money has definitely changed in the last seven years, but we still can’t believe that anyone was able to thrive on that amount while making house payments, paying off a car and providing for a family. 

Currently, both the U.S.’s and Kentucky’s minimum wages are set at $7.25 per hour, and they have been since July 24, 2009. 

While it’s a definite improvement from the previous amount, $7.25 is clearly an unsatisfactory amount if there’s currently a bill in place to try and change it. 

On the one hand, we love the idea of the minimum wage rising into the double digits. In this tough economy, even a little pay raise can go a long way for a family that needs it — including those of some WKU students and faculty. 

On the other hand, we must also acknowledge the negative effects this potential increase will have on our school as a whole and at an individual level.

We must consider the potential downside an increase of over $1 million might cost the university and its students. Add this proposed increase to the projected loss of $1.8 million thanks to Beshear’s planned state-wide cuts and you have some fiscal fidgeting headed your way.

Full-time students currently pay $8,722 in tuition and fees per school year. With the financial stresses about to hit WKU, this amount would rocket to $9,071.

For students, yet another tuition increase may cause financial stress, and according to President Gary Ransdell, even this increase couldn’t help solve some of the budgetary troubles the campus is experiencing.   

This is where the issue of job-cutting on campus comes in. 

Ransdell has previously indicated that he did not want to cut jobs in order to pay for the increase that’s inevitably coming. However, we wonder how feasible that really is.

Will some student workers be cut because five employees perform the same task? Will some student jobs be cut altogether because they are seen as unnecessary? 

We believe these all to be valid questions, because what may seem to be an unnecessary job to one may be a job which brings home the bacon for a student worker’s family to another. 

In the end, we wonder how much WKU faculty, staff and especially students will have to lose in order for Kentucky employees to gain.

This editorial represents the majority of the Herald’s 9-member editorial board.