North Texas Daily

Small hourly raise shows UNT’s little faith in student employees

Small hourly raise shows UNT’s little faith in student employees

Small hourly raise shows UNT’s little faith in student employees
October 06
12:00 2022

The university recently announced last week that on Dec. 1, almost 200 students would be receiving an immediate pay raise from $7.25 an hour to $8.50, and would later bump to $9 in August 2023 for all employees. While seemingly generous at first, the announcement of the raises’ shockingly small amount without any clarity or long-term plan casts the decision as performative at best.

Creating a living wage at the university will always be an expensive choice, but the opportunity to do so — without raising tuition — is already here. The $9 minimum, especially alongside its $8.50 rollout phase, will not ease the burden student workers face.

A $1.25 raise for 200 students in December ultimately amounts to $200,000 out of the university’s pocket over an eight-month period until the $9 minimum is set. For a university with a budget in the hundreds of millions, $200,000 is a small price to pay to support working students.

Smaller still is the $80,000 it would take to simply pay those 200 employees $9 per hour in the eight months, rather than waiting almost a whole calendar year for it to take effect. Even just waiting until December saves the university $56,000 — a little less than the total cost of attendance for two semesters for the average University of North Texas student as of 2021.

Perhaps the extra money is being put to better use, like the 6 percent raise university President Neal Smatresk received in 2020. That 6 percent pushed Smatresk’s total university compensation to over $600,000. The average university president makes around $495,000 according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

If Smatresk were to receive said median salary, the excess wealth alone would have allowed half of those 200 students to immediately be paid $9 an hour. With living costs in Denton and across the country having risen greatly in the past year, saving that few grand could be all the difference in the president’s paycheck.

Beyond the dollar amounts, the vagueness regarding how the miniscule raise was chosen only adds to students’ frustrations. Nowhere in the announcement did the university acknowledge that the living wage for a single adult is $16.41, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The university also did not specify any plans to provide a living wage to its student employees.

The only time the announcement acknowledged the significant increase in costs of living was a single sentence stating the university recognizes “the toll rising costs have on our students’ finances.”

The announcement was unclear whether this is the only step UNT is taking to support students facing rising rents and inflation. It also failed to mention any resources worried workers could already access. The university has a Student Money Management Center and a Career Center that provide advising for students, but neither were talked about.

If the university truly believes it “empowers [its] students to thrive in a rapidly changing world” as its mission statement says, then it too needs to react to the ever-changing economy its students live in while communicating how it intends to do so., the world’s largest job site, lists the average salary of a Denton receptionist as $13.97 — almost five dollars above the new minimum wage at UNT. That is just one of the many jobs students will have to do for significantly less than they should be. Not even acknowledging it makes UNT seem unacquainted with what life as a student worker is like.

Even if $9 an hour could be made into a living wage, students at UNT are only allowed to work 25 hours maximum per week while taking classes. At $9 per hour, a student would expect to make $900 dollars a month. The average cost of a studio apartment in Denton is $981, according to

If a student came from a lower-income household or had no support network, they will inevitably have to take up a second job if they want to support themselves — all while still attending class and working on assignments.

More than 5,000  students are employed by the university, according to the raise announcement. With a little under 45,000 students enrolled at UNT, one in nine students works for the university. One in nine students are managing their education on top of trying to make a living. 

Though they may keep the morning coffees running, answer those important phone calls for department heads and put together vital community events and opportunities, the university’s newest announcement does little to show their support.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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