Arkansas’s new minimum wage of $8.00 went into effect on Jan. 1. This is a 50-cent increase from last year’s wage, and 75 cents above the federal minimum wage.
Work-study students at John Brown University will be allowed to continue working the same amount of hours, said financial aid enrollment counselor Sarah Cowles. At the normal rate of 7.5 hours a week and 113 hours a semester, students can expect to make an additional $56.50 this semester.
Lauren Wilson, sophomore engineering major, said she is happy that minimum wage has gone up and the hours are staying the same.
“It will really help with tuition,” said Wilson.
Hannah Pickle, freshman undeclared major, said she is glad minimum wage has gone up since it helps work-study students, but wonders how it will affect the economics of the University.
Arkansas is one of the 14 states that began the new year with wage increases. Arkansas’s wage increase is part of a three-year increase plan, passed in November 2014.
At the time this bill was passed, Arkansas’s minimum wage had not increased since 2006, when it was set to $6.25. While $6.25 was above federal minimum wage at the time, it is now $1 below, and thereby null. The 2014 bill increased state wage to $7.50 at the start of 2015, $8.00 this year, and will reach $8.50 in 2017.
While work-study students may welcome the wage increase, others are concerned about the long-term impact of increasing minimum wage on the economy. There have been multiple “living wage” protests across the country. Last week hundreds of airport workers in New York protested for increased pay and benefits.
“I don’t think it is supposed to be a livable wage. It is supposed to be a wage for teens and young adults that are just starting off and still rely a little bit on their parents,” said Claire Griffin, sophomore communication major.
“I think raising the minimum wage will help at first, but I think it will eventually cause prices to rise universally,” she said, expressing a common concern for inflation.
Patrick Taff is a tax specialist and the owner of 14 H&H Block tax preparation offices in Arkansas and Louisiana. Taff said that minimum wage is not meant to be a living wage, but is rather meant to cover short-term needs in the job market.
“I don’t know very many hard working people that make minimum wage. The idea is a starting point for learning and growth. If you depend on minimum wage you will never get where you need to be,” Taff said. “The problem is we think that we deserve more, so we want minimum wage increased instead of working harder to earn more than minimum wage and forcing our employer to pay us more or risk losing us to a different competitor.”
Taff added that raising the minimum wage could potentially “lead employers to stop hiring because the wage for the work is not worth it.”
“Most of the time it pushes smaller business to pay cash instead, which never gets reported and so taxes are not paid and money is not reported and more free benefits are given out,” Taff said.