A Bump in Students’ Wages Would Give Them the Break They Need

By Alicia Criado, Field Coordinator, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Min_Wage_2_FINAL_72 DPIWe’re back for the second installment of our minimum wage truth-telling video blog series. This week, the focus is on how increasing the minimum wage would benefit working students. You might assume we’re only talking about teenagers, but the truth is:

  • The average age of minimum-wage workers is 35 years old.
  • Four out of five minimum-wage workers are at least 20 years old.
  • About 44 percent of minimum-wage workers have some college education.

In an effort to shed light on the fact that many working students are often their families’ primary breadwinner and have to balance work with investing in their future, we’re featuring GOAL Academy leadership staff in this week’s video.

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GOAL Academy, an NCLR Affiliate, is a Colorado-based, tuition-free, public online charter school that serves mostly Latino students that are designated at-risk. On average, the students are in their late teens and early twenties, and come from low- and moderate-income families. Given the students’ limited educations, they are typically relegated to jobs that pay at or below the minimum wage. However, the students’ increasing need to work in order to cover basic living expenses weakens their ability to invest more time in their studies.

Students who work can’t afford to lose time in the classroom, given that low educational attainment impedes a large number of young workers—especially Latinos—from accessing full-time, well-paying jobs with career paths. In 2008, only 57.6 percent of Latino children who entered ninth grade completed high school with a regular diploma, compared to 78.4 percent  of White children and 82.7 percent  of Asian youth. Hispanics who enroll in postsecondary education often battle the astronomical costs of higher education, yet often receive less financial aid. This inequity puts an even greater burden on Latino college students either to finance their own education or to apply for student loans, or to drop out of college.

Raising the minimum wage would help ease the pressure on working students by allowing them to work fewer hours, earn more money, and not struggle to pay for basic living expenses like food. These workers, along with millions of others, are waiting on Congress to take action on raising the minimum wage. In light of the Senate delaying the vote on the “Minimum Wage Fairness Act” (S. 1737) once again this week, we want to hear from you. Tell us your minimum wage story!

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