Minimum wage hike hits UNM

By on Mon, Feb 11, 2013

Albuquerque’s new minimum wage increase is costing the University of New Mexico upwards of half a million dollars annually to boost the pay of hundreds of student workers.

The increase, from $7.50 an hour to $8.50 an hour with an automatic cost of living hike each year, was approved by Albuquerque voters during the November election.

Among the university’s 834 student workers, some are paid more than minimum wage and many work only part time. However, according to UNM’s calculations, the change is expected to cost about $585,000 annually — although the amount could end up being from $390,000 to $780,000, depending on how many hours students actually work, according to UNM’s calculations.

Still, UNM does not anticipate cutting any student jobs, calling them “an important component of our workforce as well as an important/critical tool for many students to stay enrolled in school,” said Andrew Cullen, associate vice president for planning, budget and analysis.

He said each department will have to figure out how to make up the deficit on its own.

“In some instances, additional funds will be allocated to departments that have a significant number of student employees and little flexibility in their budgets to address the additional expense. This will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis,” he said in an email.

The wage increase is most heavily affecting UNM’s recreational services, which employs the most students, a spokeswoman said. Of its 150 student workers, 75 percent will see their wage increase due to the minimum wage change, UNM said. Most of them work in the Johnson center, a vast gym that includes three swimming pools, racquetball courts and cardio and weight rooms.

The wage hike will leave rec services with a shortfall of about $30,000 by the end of this fiscal year on June 30. Annually, student payroll for rec services will cost an extra $60,000.

To make up for the loss, the rec center in late January announced it would reduce its hours, but that decision was reversed by UNM administrators.

“We realize that students have a lot of demands on their time. Many are juggling rigorous class schedules with jobs and other responsibilities,” president Bob Frank said in a statement. “We believe that recreation and exercise are key components of student life, and we want those services to be as available and convenient as possible for our students.”

In addition to a request for more funding from student fees next year, recreational services will also receive help from the university, according to the statement.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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