Emory University’s Integrated Financial Planning and Budgeting Executive Committee accepted a proposal on Nov. 28 to incrementally increase the student minimum wage to $15 an hour by fall 2024. Emory Students for Students, a student advocacy group, publicized the decision in a Dec. 5 Instagram post.
This decision comes after Students for Students gained signatures from about 1,400 Emory community members and 86 organizations on their petition to raise the student minimum wage. Administrators have been studying the issue of student pay since late 2021, according to Vice President of Human Resources Theresa Milazzo.
The student minimum wage is currently $9 for undergraduate students. This January, the minimum wage will be raised to $12 for all Emory students, then to $13.50 in September 2023 and $15 in September 2024, according to Assistant Vice President of University Communications and Marketing Laura Diamond.
In a statement to the Wheel, Milazzo stated that this decision was made to attract more student workers as, in the past, some hiring units have had trouble finding students to fill open positions, partly due to lifted COVID-19 restrictions creating a strong local job market.
Milazzo said that the number of student workers would not decrease due to the increase in the minimum wage at Emory. Additionally, student tuition will not be raised to accommodate the new wages.
According to Milazzo, the cost of increasing the student hourly minimum wage will become part of the University’s annual operating budget. The budget, funded through various sources such as research, tuition and philanthropy, is currently around $2.1 billion annually.
“The decision is part of our ongoing commitment to be an employer of choice, and the plan to phase in the minimum wage increases over three fiscal years is intended to give each individual hiring unit greater flexibility to prepare for and manage cost increases,” Milazzo wrote.
Students for Students Co-President Alysha Posternak (24C), Co-President Elisabet Ortiz (25C) and Secretary Isabela Galoustian (24C) formed the group in April 2021 to distribute funding to low-income students at Emory who could not afford basic necessities. The organization first advocated for increased wages via Instagram on March 14. Starting the group as four freshmen, the now upperclassmen wrote in a statement to the Wheel that they wanted to prevent Emory students from falling through the cracks and stop the continuing underrepresentation of underserved students.
Ortiz said that before coming to Emory, her life was “defined by systemic brokenness.”
“I felt powerless and did not believe I could do anything to improve my own life, much less the lives of the people around me,” Ortiz said. “When I first got to Emory, I began realizing that my experiences with homelessness and food insecurity on campus were the products of systemic failings. After hearing the experiences of other students coming from similar backgrounds, I discovered that I was not alone.”
Galostustain stated that she was not surprised by this news, noting that she was confident the wage increase would come after the student body crowdfunded $8,000 for students in need of financial assistance through Students for Students.
“This change did not come out of nowhere — wins with the establishment that seemed insurmountable are a direct result of what happens when communities organize,” Galostustain wrote.
Posternak said she was elated after hearing the news, adding that she is honored to be a part of Students for Students, a collective which represents “thousands” of Emory community members. Although Posternak noted that the journey to this point was difficult, she is highly encouraged by the Emory community coming together to advocate for and achieve positive change.
“During this campaign, there have been moments where I felt discouraged and exhausted,” Posternak wrote. “I have had countless all-nighters with the Students for Students team. At the beginning, when we were just four freshmen, creating institutional change seemed overwhelmingly impossible.”
SGA President Noah Marchuck (24C) said that the Student Government Association (SGA) supports the increase in minimum wage.
“Bottom line, we’ve been wanting this for years, but once we knew that it was in the works and was something that was happening, we stopped pushing because we knew it was coming soon,” Marchuck said.
He continued that he was “thrilled” by the decision. Marchuck attributed the wage increase to Students for Students’ work.
“I was very happy that they were advocating this so much and I’m happy to support as much as I can,” Marchuck said. “Because they were also going for it, I didn’t want to step on their toes.”
Ortiz added that the new minimum wage will improve the lives of many students.
“I, and so many other students, have felt powerless alone, but this win shows that when we come together, we are unstoppable,” Ortiz wrote. “We will not stop fighting to make education equitable for everyone. This win is just the beginning of what our community can do.”
Asst. News Editor | Spencer Friedland (26C) is from Long Island, New York, majoring in political science and minoring in film and media. He previously interned for local County Representative Susan Berland.