New minimum wage on campus

Effective November 7, Carnegie Mellon will be implementing a new student minimum wage of $10 per hour campus-wide. This is an increase of $1.75 per hour on the current student minimum wage of $8.25 per hour. On this day, all hourly student worker positions earning less than $10 an hour will be transitioned to the new minimum wage.

This new minimum wage will affect students who are classified as hourly student workers. These are undergraduate and graduate students who are paid hourly by a hiring department that are not associated with the student worker academic program; it also does not include Ph.D. or Master’s students who serve as teaching assistants or research assistants as a part of their program in exchange for a stipend.

The last Carnegie Mellon minimum wage increase was August 21, 2017, when the minimum wage was increased to $8.25 per hour from $7.75. Prior to that, there was an increase from $7.25 to $7.75 on October 17, 2016. No changes to the Carnegie Mellon minimum wage have been made since.

As of March 1, there are 4,211 hourly student workers. 1,504 graduate student hourly workers made an average of $16.63 per hour while 2,707 undergraduate hourly student workers made an average of $12.69 an hour. Currently, positions that earn $8.25 per hour make up three percent of the student hourly worker population. This includes the positions of desk attendant, events assistant, and some teaching assistants. 61 percent of hourly student positions earn above $13 per hour, and 42 percent earn above $15 per hour (84 percent of graduate hourly positions earn above $15 an hour).

The increase to $10 an hour has achieved the goal of a Fall 2015 student-led proposal. Following this proposal, a working group was established that consisted of members from student affairs, human resources, academic units, and students. The above wage increases were the result of that working group.

In Fall 2021, the Undergraduate Student Senate Committee on Business Affairs released a white paper regarding the “CMU Student Labor Situation.” This white paper included about 150 survey responses from hourly student workers that asked about students’ knowledge and past experience at Carnegie Mellon. This sample size represented about three percent of the hourly student workers with strong representation of teaching assistants. The white paper made three recommendations: wage and contract transparency with recruiting and hiring consistencies, a minimum wage raise to $11 per hour over five years, and a focus on workplace culture.

In Spring 2022, another working group composed of Carnegie Mellon staff and students was formed to make recommendations regarding student employment. Five recommendations were advanced to University Leadership this past summer.

The first was regarding consistency and transparency in hourly student recruitment and hiring practices. One aspect of this recommendation is to create new job profiles for the Teaching Assistant position that provide Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 descriptions with appropriate pay ranges and best practices.

In this new setup, graders would be classified as Level 1, course assistants would be classified as Level 2, and teaching assistants would be classified as Level 3. Graders are solely responsible for grading, while course assistants are additionally responsible for student contact, office hours, and recitations. Full teaching assistants would have the similar responsibilities as a course assistant, but also be responsible for teaching. Minimum wages for Level 1 will be $11 for undergraduates and $13 for graduates; Level 2 will be $13 for undergraduates and $15 for graduates; Level 3 will be $15 for undergraduates and $17 for graduates. As of Nov. 7, the Level 1 minimum wage will be rolled out to all current teaching assistant positions. Phase 2 will be implemented Jan. 3, 2023 and includes building out teaching assistant job profiles and the rollout of Level 2 and Level 3 minimum wages.

Currently, the average minimum wage at peer universities is $11.75 per hour. This ranges from $15.95 per hour at Stanford to $7.25 at many peer institutions. However, when adjusted to Pittsburgh by Cost of Labor Differential, the average becomes $10.63 per hour, and when adjusted to Pittsburgh by Cost of Living Differential, the average becomes $9.45 per hour. Carnegie Mellon’s new minimum wage will be between these two averages. The projected average student worker rate is $14.44 per hour, which is 153 percent higher than the equivalent cost of living minimum wage and 136 percent higher than the equivalent cost of labor minimum wage.

The Federal Work Study Program currently has maximum hourly wages of $12 per hour for undergraduates and $16 per hour for graduate students. However, based upon spring 2022 data, 61.4 percent of campus hourly student positions pay above this maximum. As such, Carnegie Mellon Enrollment Services will be increasing the limit from $12 per hour to $13 per hour for undergraduates and $16 per hour to $17 per hour for graduate students, effective immediately.