Panthers weigh pros and cons of raising minimum wage

Image courtesy of Creative Commons.

Kieron Williams/Staff Writer

Florida started the new year by raising it’s minimum wage from $7.79 to $7.93, but some students do not think the 14 cents increase is enough, considering increasing tuition prices and decreasing financial aid.

Daniel Tarasiuk, junior English major, said he struggles even being a resident assistant.

“All I can really do with my paycheck is buy some groceries,” Tarasiuk said.

Although the raise seems minor to some, Florida’s minimum wage is above the federal mandate of $7.25 an hour.

“If I had to pay my own bills and everything, minimum wage would definitely not be enough to  live on,” Tarasiuk said.

President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address that by 2016, the federal minimum wage will be raised from $7.25 to $10.10 — an increase from 2013’s $9 proposal.

But would such a drastic change be worth the effort, or would it do more harm than good?

According to economics professor Jorge Salazar-Carrillo, increasing Florida’s minimum  wage to such a degree may entail some consequences that he suggests we should consider before  moving forward.

For one, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 4.7 percent of all  hourly paid workers are being paid at or below federal minimum wage.

“Since this affects very  little of the labor force, granting such increased wages may drive finances away from more significant issues,” Salazar-Carrillo said.

He also warned of the potential damage that can be done to  small businesses.

“Increasing the minimum wage may lead to either staff cuts in companies that cannot afford to keep as many employees, or an increase in price of the goods or services that companies provide,” he said.

Although 66 percent of minimum-wage employees work in large corporations, according to the National Employment Law Project, the effect on small businesses still remains.

Another concern Salazar-Carrillo has is the effect higher wages, as well as increasing tuition prices, could have on the ambition of young adults.

“A major portion of Americans being paid minimum wage are young adults in college, or high school students  making the transition to college,” Salazar-Carrillo said. “A drastic increase in minimum wage may  reduce motivation to continue with higher education and simply ‘settle’ with whatever they’re  getting paid.”

He said this could adversely affect education systems and the future workforce.

“Plenty of people have become successful without a degree, and I’m already working in my field,” said Vinesh Kanusing, junior marketing major. “If I could learn everything I’m being taught in school just by doing my job well, it just makes financial sense to make money at the same time instead of taking out more loans.”

In a recent interview, the financial aid department has stated that financial aid awards from grants and scholarships have not lowered in recent years, despite evidence by Florida’s own  Department of Education that Bright Futures scholarships have decreased since 2009.

According to FLDOE, the average Bright Futures award in 2011-2012 dropped almost 20 percent to $1,222.

FIU tuition prices have been steadily increasing by 15 percent in 2012, and again by 1.7 percent in 2013.

With scholarship awards steadily decreasing and tuition on the rise, could an increase in minimum wage lead to students’ decision to forgo school altogether and work full-time?

Although minimum wage only affects a small amount of the national workforce, to the people that it does affect—especially college students with little financial options—it could mean everything.

For some, it could even mean choosing not to take out another loan, a choice that can potentially save them thousands of dollars in the future.

But for employers and universities, a rise in minimum wage could lead to negative consequences, according to Salazar-Carrillo.


About the Author

Kieron Williams
: I'm a Communications Arts major, and once I graduate I hope to use my degree and writing skills to become a screenwriter and novelist. I'm in my junior year at FIU, hoping to graduate by 2016, and I'm also Vice President of the FIU Film Initiative. I write for the News section, Life, and Opinion.

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