Students support student wage increase initiative


Robin Sluzas, Writer & Producer

The Student Government Association (SGA) launched the Student Employee Wage Initiative at the board meeting on Nov. 30.  The purpose of the initiative is to work with the Oakton Board of Trustees and the administration to raise hourly wages for student employees.

Support for this initiative was displayed by the 37 students who attended the meeting.  This amount of students in attendance triples the amount of prior student attendance, seemingly in Oakton history, making for a standing room assembly only.

SGA Senator, Joshua Rodriguez, is leading the movement and delivered a succinct opening statement, via the public comments at the meeting, as to why the basis for the requested wage increase is true and important.  

Rodriguez said, “We are always working together to improve Oakton, in this case by being more equitable to the student employees that help to keep this campus running as smooth as it does.”  

The statement sets the cooperative tone and tenor for future cooperation with the Oakton Board of Trustees.

Wages for student employees are determined by individual level of skill and are partitioned into four specific tiers with step wage increases that are implemented twice per year after review by a supervisor.  A Level 1 position initially pays $8.25 per hour, Level 2 begins at $8.40 per hour, Level 3 at $8.60 per hour and finally a Level 4 position begins at $8.90 per hour. The only exception to this is the America Reads Tutoring Program which pays $12.50 per hour.

In October of 2016, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed Ordinance 16-5768 that increased the minimum wage for workers to $11.00 per hour, which became effective on July 1, 2018.

In order to bolster the initiative, Rodriquez has acquired 113 student employee signatures on a petition that calls for an adjustment in the minimum student employee wage to begin at $11.00 per hour, or the minimum wage as set by the county at any given time.

It is worth noting that for those who are employed in positions that are tip based, the base wage for these workers was increased by Ordinance 16-5768 to $4.95/hr. to $5.10/hr. also effective October 1, 2018.

The Cook County Government website states that “The text of the Cook County Minimum Wage Ordinance as enacted by the Cook County Board of Commissioners and Interpretive and Procedural Rules adopted by the Cook County Commission on Human Rights provide detailed guidance for employers.

The staff of the Commission does not have the authority to provide legal advice or render advisory opinions to individual employers. However, the staff appreciates the efforts on the part of conscientious employers to maintain compliance with the Ordinance.”

While wage increases at public colleges are not common, a wage increase for student employees was implemented when the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) Board of Directors voted to align student employee minimum wages with the San Francisco minimum wage. As of July 1, 2018, student employees at that community college make $15 per hour and work a maximum of 15 hours per week.  

Brigitte Davila, Vice President of the CCSF Board of Trustees stated on their college’s website, “Not only will students benefit from this, CCSF will, too. I know from teaching [at San Francisco State University] that it’s hard to recruit people when they can make more with city wages outside [of campus]. We have vacant positions that are impossible to fill.”  

Echoing the rationale of Davila’s statement, Oakton student, Miguel Nunez, stated that “Anyone who works for the school or anyplace else should be compensated.  They should be making at least minimum wage because students pay full price for anything they need like books, clothing, food, and transportation.”

In addition, some of the duties student employees may be expected to take on can be challenging. A recently viewed, open Level 1, student employee position paying $8.25 per hour involves the following duties: “word processing, spreadsheets, copying, in person and telephone triage for incoming calls regarding registration for BNAT and Elder Care program.   Will work closely with the chair and department assistant in maintaining and updating processes for efficiency in the department. Will assist in proofreading forms to be submitted to the state of Illinois.

Despite the challenging aspects of this initiative, the spirit of cooperation by student employees, the Board of Trustees, administrators and President Smith is ever present.

Rodriguez is currently developing a report detailing the student employee proposal, with the careful guidance of V.P. Karl Brooks and V.P. Edwin Chandrasekar.  Rodriguez said, “While there is much work to be done, I will continue to work on this report over the winter interim, and hope to have it ready for President Smith before the start of the spring semester, so she may present it to the President’s Council and eventually the Board.”  The President’s Council and Oakton Board have not yet received the report and will consider the initiative proposal upon receipt.

The state of the initiative, as viewed by student employees and the SGA, is optimistic.  SGA Treasurer, Aaron Banks, who was present at the Board meeting, stated that “the full Board seemed enthusiastic about Josh Rodriguez’s presentation.”  

Student Trustee, Jack Timperley’s summation regarding progress to date supports the cooperative initiative SGA has undertaken, stating, “The likelihood of success is very high because we have students, faculty, and administrators on our side.”  

Timperley went on to emphasize the significance of the initiative saying,  “This initiative is important because we are setting our legacy for future generations so that they can afford the cost of living.  It also shows how much Oakton values its student employees. Together, we will make this happen.”

For more information about the resources cited in this story go to:

Cook County Government,

City College of San Francisco (CCSF),

Oakton Student Employee Pay Rates (note: website pay rate link for Skokie),

Oakton Student Employee Positions,