Of the many burdens the modern student bears, the looming presence of student loan debt remains a cause of great concern. For many students, the experience of college lies somewhere between fantasy and harsh reality. At $1.2 trillion, student loan debt has even surpassed credit card debt. StartClass, an education data site, estimates that the national student loan debt increases at a rate of $2,726.27 per second. Despite the scrutiny regarding tuition and student loans, there exists another issue which has similarly captivated the attention of students and millennials alike: The living wage.
Certainly, this concept resonates with many students. Achieving a living wage for all campus workers is one of the driving forces behind the growing movement #MillionStudentMarch. On Nov. 12, 2015, students from a wide range of backgrounds at 110 campuses across the country partook in the endeavor of solidarity for the first time. The march took place once again Apr. 13—this time alongside the Black Liberation Collective, reflecting the increased interconnectedness and social consciousness of our generation.
But herein, we must acknowledge providing a living wage for all campus workers cannot be achieved without an increase in tuition. The MSM alleviates this concern, however, by calling for cancellation of all student debt and free public college for all. Nevertheless, in its application, the living wage remains difficult to achieve through the administration’s perspective. They cannot cancel debt nor make tuition free and also remain above water. Fortunately, the divisiveness between the left and right wing of politics is largely mitigated on this issue due to agreement over the root causes of increase in tuition.
Thinkers from across the political field have denounced “administrative bloat.” Administrative bloat is a result of universities employing far more non-teaching administrators. Thomas Lindsay, director of Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Higher Education, speaks to this phenomenon in “Finally, Bipartisan Agreement On Why College Is So Expensive.” Michelle Chen, liberal and contributing writer to The Nation, adds to this dialogue in “Why Is College So Expensive if Professors Are Paid So Little?” Chen explains, “The hyperinflated price tag of college has funneled toward another aspect of the higher education system: (…)twenty five years ago, a student at a public college(…)would see twice as many faculty as administrators on average; now the ratio is roughly equal.”
As a result of these concerns, I’d like to offer a solution addressing administrative bloat, student debt, and the living wage for campus workers—without increasing tuition.
As of now, publicly accessible data regarding all employee salary information exists at Texas State University. The Texas Tribune collects and publishes this data in its Government Salaries Explorer, and the university reports it as a matter of law. This data can be downloaded onto a spreadsheet listing information such as name, job title, and monthly and annual compensation for all 3,529 university employees.
According to this monthly compensation data, there are 218 employees (constituting the bottom 6 percent) who do not make a living wage. At $15/hour, assuming a 32-hour work week (factoring in part-time work), this amounts to $2,080/month, or $24,960/year.
There are 32 employees with 9-month employment durations making less than a living wage. They should be paid a total sum of $599,040 but are actually paid $419,719, a difference of $179,321. There are also 185 12-month employees making less than a living wage. They should be paid a total sum of $4,617,600 but are actually paid $3,720,270, a difference of $897,330. This makes for a combined total of $1,076,651 in necessary appropriations. The question is, how should the university cover these costs?
Well, interestingly enough, 5 percent of each of the salaries of the top 200 earners at Texas State, or the top 6 percent of employees, amounts to $1,430,083. As you can see, this is more than enough to ensure that all campus workers can earn a living wage. Call me what you may, but the solution seems simple.
Sincerely, a Fiscal Liberal.
-Eric Martinez, political science junior