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 SRU Summer Reading Program Turns into Pay Increase for Student Workers 




Contact: K.E. Schwab  -- 724-738-2199;  e-mail:


        SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University administrators listened intently as students discussed Barbara Ehrenreich’s book “Nickle and Dimed” as part of fall semester’s campuswide summer reading program. They heard how difficult it is to make ends meet, including paying tuition, on minimum wage jobs, and have decided to increase student wages to $6 per hour beginning spring classes.

     The pay raise, from the federally mandated at $5.15 per hour in effect since 1997, will cover some 1,000 student workers on campus. Plans call for an additional boost to $6.15 per hour in August. A national increase in the minimum wage is under discussion in Congress and at least seven states may individually vote on increasing the minimum wage in special balloting this year.

     “We heard compelling, personal stories from our students as part of our group discussions of Ms. Ehrenreich’s New York Times bestseller,” said SRU President Robert Smith in announcing the planned wage increase. “Students, like others, face mounting costs, including tuition, textbooks and overall living expenses. Students often have to work multiple, part-time jobs to meet their obligations. I think this pay increase is an investment to help students remain in school, pursing their dream of a college education. With a college education, we know they will earn higher salaries, thus pay higher taxes, in just a few short years – thus making the small wage increase now, a solid investment for the future.”

     SRU began its summer reading program last year as a way of helping orient new students to the academic community through a common reading experience with fellow classmates, faculty and staff. Upper-class students served as peer leaders in the project. Incoming students read the selected work before arriving for orientation, then offered their views and opinions as well as personal stories as part of campus discussion groups.

     Ehrenreich’s work was chosen for its help in promoting civic engagement and because it could encourage critical thinking about social issues. The work was also seen as helping create an intellectual understanding and commitment to participate in the civic life of the campus and the nation.

     “We hoped that by reading ‘Nickel and Dimed’ students would become engaged, and it is clear they did,” said Smith. “They understand the difficulties of living on minimum wage, and they understood the problems of America’s working poor.”

        "As a leading higher education institute in Pennsylvania, we see our students forced to spend more time at their jobs in order to meet their education cost obligations. We know a balance of work and study time is important if our students are to succeed academically, and we think by helping students with this pay increase, we are helping meet  their needs at a very important time of their lives."

        "Across the nation, governmental leaders are looking at the minimum wage issue. Some have called the current $5.15 a national ‘moral issue.’ We decided that at SRU this was something we could and should address," the president added.

        The student wage increase is expected to cost the university $156,112 the first year. The funding will come from additional performance enhancement allocations and is not expected to be part of tuition increases. SRU's annual budget is more than $88 million.                 PN, WPN, PR, TV, S



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