Rutgers students look forward to NJ minimum wage increase
Working students will soon see an increase in their paychecks as the state's minimum wage increases for the first time since 2015.
New Jersey’s minimum wage will increase from $8.38 an hour to $8.44 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2017, which will help students who work part-time, said Carl Van Horn, a professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.
“I think it will have a substantial affect on students that are working, as many do on a part-time basis,” Van Horn said. "Over time, it will continue to go up with inflation, so that will make a difference. And there may be a referendum that will increase it even further.”
The state's minimum wage is based off of the Consumer Price Index. The last time New Jersey had a minimum wage increase was in 2015 when it raised from $8.25 an hour to the current $8.38. There was no increase in 2016 because the Consumer Price Index remained the same in 2015.
“It is a good step in the right direction because minimum wage is too low. Students struggle to afford their basic necessities like textbooks, food and all the little stuff needed to sustain themselves,” said School of Art and Sciences sophomore Chakeema Cruickshank. “But six cents will not make that much of a difference - some people probably won’t even notice.”
Lauren Holmes, a Rutgers Business School sophomore, does not think the wage increase will affect her.
“I work 12 hours a week. That is only 72 cents more," Holmes said.
Full-time students often can not work more than 15 hours a week because classes, internships and extracurricular activities allot a maximum amount of work hours, Cruickshank said.
“Even if I was working 40 hours a week … that’s only $2.40 … that can barely get you anything nowadays,” Holmes said.
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) recently vetoed a Democrat-backed bill that would gradually raise New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2021, NJ Advance Media reported.
Holmes said students may be incentivized to work longer hours if the minimum wage increased to $15.
“With $15 you can do a lot, but that also means that the standard of living will rise," Holmes said.
Christie, while striking down the $15-an-hour bill, argued such a steep increase would make New Jersey unaffordable for businesses, NJ Advance Media reported.
The federal government might force the state to adopt a higher minimum wage if it increases the national level, Van Horn said.
“It is possible that there could be an even higher federal minimum wage depending on the outcome of the election,” he said. “For example, if Senator (Hillary) Clinton were to win, a number of more Democrats would come into Congress and they have pledged to increase the federal minimum wage.”
The Democratic presidential nominee supports a federal minimum wage increase to $12 an hour, while Republican nominee Donald Trump does not support a federal minimum wage. Instead, Trump proposes that the states set their own minimum wage, Van Horn said.
Minimum wage increases will affect businesses all over the state and around campus, Van Horn said.
It is difficult to predict the number of employers that will cut their workforce, Van Horn said, but the hope is that the reduction would be minimal.
According to the Journalist's Resource, moderate minimum wage increases have little effect on employment and hours, but there is no research how large increases in the minimum wage affect the employment rate.
Van Horn said during 2015's minimum wage increase, paychecks increased slightly for most, but did not have a large impact on reducing job opportunities for students.
“We need a much more practical minimum wage amount to be able to afford all expenses because eight-something an hour really isn’t that much,” Cruickshank said.
Kayon Amos is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in human resources. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.