Emory Students for Students, an advocacy organization which aims to make Emory more equitable, issued an open letter on March 14 demanding for administration to “take concrete steps to enact an increase to a $15 an hour minimum wage for student workers on Atlanta and Oxford campuses.”

Currently, the letter is accompanied by a petition, which has over 700 signatures from students, faculty, staff, alumni and campus organizations.

Assistant Vice President of Marketing and Communications Laura Diamond told the Wheel in a March 16 email that the University “values the service and contributions of [its] student employees and strives to offer competitive pay rates.” She added that Emory has “already begun reviewing student compensation to ensure equity across campus.” 

According to the letter, over one-fifth of Emory students are employed through the Federal Work-Study Program, which provides part-time jobs to cover the costs of college for low income students. Emory permits all work-study students to earn up to $2,500 per year, with a $8.50 to $9.50 on the Oxford Campus and a range of $9 to $11 wage on the Atlanta Campus . In conjunction with the weekly hour limits, this means work-study students may not always reach the cap. On average, work-study students nationwide earn $1,800 to $1,850 per year.

Reaghan Moore (23Ox) is one such student that experienced difficulty reaching the cap . For her work-study, she works 10 to 13 hours per week in the Oxford Biology Lab. However, because of the remote start to spring semester, Moore will not reach her allotted $2,500 by the end of the school year. 

“Work-study money is deemed necessary by Emory and the federal government,” Moore said. “We should be able to earn it without having to sacrifice academic success to work more hours.” 

Emory Students for Students released an open letter demanding for University administration to establish a $15 minimum wage for student workers. (Lin Yu/Staff)

In the letter, Students for Students argues that the current minimum wage is not sufficient in making a “substantial dent” in the expenses required to attend Emory. They list out all of these costs, including the rising tuition, required on-campus housing and the $2,063 meal plan. 

“I’m paying all my own expenses and bills, and $10 per hour for 15 hours is just not sustainable,” Student for Students member and work-study student Selma Hassan (24C) said. “[The low wages] are a huge burden on many students who struggle to afford basic necessities that the Emory students from a more privileged background can afford easily.”

The Students for Students letter also compares living costs at Emory to living in Atlanta, pointing to the $16.56 per hour minimum wage that is sufficient to support a single, childless adult in Atlanta. 

“Even when students live on campus, they are still faced with the prices of gas, groceries, medication, and other basic necessities,” the letter states. “Every year, as the cost of living continues to skyrocket, Emory cannot expect us to accept a $9 minimum wage.”

Work-study students also noted that the current minimum wage can serve as a barrier from being able to participate in other extracurricular activities. 

“Because of COVID, I only actually work in person every other week,” work-study student Angela Chen (23Ox) said. “During the weeks I’m working, I have no time to go to my extracurriculars. Work is my life outside of my classes and studying, and I don’t know what I’ll do if I start having to work every week.”

Students for Students Founder Elisabet Ortiz (24C) emphasized how work-study students’ lack of time for other activities has affected the broader Emory community.

“In all of the other facets of the campus culture, low income voices aren’t always heard and their participation isn’t able to exist,” Ortiz said. “Part of having the diverse community that the university advocates for is making sure that everyone can participate in campus life while they’re here.”

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Oxford Campus Desk | Katie Bartlett (she/her, 23Ox) is from New Jersey, majoring in history. Outside of the Wheel, she is a project coordinator for Volunteer Oxford, a high school tutor and an avid hiker and animal lover. In her free time, Bartlett can be found on the Oxford nature trail or playing with the campus cats.