BYU students share minimum wage woes

Sheila Mallett used to work a minimum-wage job and now works in the marketing department at Independent Study. (Photo by Sarah Hill)

Minimum-wage jobs are a necessity for a growing number of college students to offset the cost of tuition, books, housing and other expenses associated with university life.

Sheila Mallett, an Indiana native, was one of those students, working for minimum wage before and after her mission. In so doing, Mallett said she missed out on opportunities to go on dates, join clubs and experience campus life.

“I was working during prime-time,” Mallett said of her work hours on weeknights. “You can’t be a part of what’s going on on campus.”

Mallett eventually left that job to work in BYU Independent Study’s marketing department. Not only did Mallett receive higher wages after the switch, but she was able to increase her skill set.

As many as 284,000 college students worked minimum-wage jobs in 2012, according to the Wall Street Journal, which is 70 percent more than the number of college students working at minimum wage in 2002.

BYU uses the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as its base. Employment duties ranging from food service, to bookstore loss prevention, to campus custodial all start at $7.25.

Mark Lindley, a junior public health major, worked for minimum wage long before arriving at BYU. He worked for $5.15 an hour at a Domino’s Pizza  location in his hometown of Houston, Texas, while in high school in 2006. That rate was the established minimum wage at the time for Texas.

“Any BYU student can look at the classifieds and see which pays the most,” Lindley said.

While BYU students arguably have a wide variety of employment opportunities on campus, some students opt to take a job more directly related to their career paths, sometimes taking a pay cut in the process. Other students, however, can’t find jobs putting their majors to use.

Lindley, who has worked as a lifeguard and at a call center, said he took a considerable pay cut from a computer job to working with the BYU risk management department as an industrial hygiene assistant, a job putting his major to use and still above minimum wage.

“It can count for internship credit,” Lindley said of his job as an industrial hygiene assistant.

Finding a job directly related to her major has been difficult for sociology major Jessica Te’o, a native of Fort Worth, Texas.

Te’o, 22, worked in BYU’s lost and found services for a year and a half at minimum wage before moving to BYU Intramurals as an official for basketball and flag football. Working at lost and found was the lowest-paying job in Te’o’s work history.

“The thing I hated most about clocking is that you could only (work) part-time. You could never work more than four hours a day,” Te’o said. “My only motivation was going in for $28, and that was annoying.”

Te’o added that working at minimum wage leads to less motivation to perform and improve.

“We’d meet our quota but are not motivated to do more,” Te’o said.

Freshman Aubrey Sintay, 19, works two minimum-wage jobs to pay the bills. Like Te’o, finding a job related to her pursuit of a degree in elementary special education has been difficult.

Sintay doesn’t expect to find a job related to her major until she nears graduation.

“It’s hard working two jobs,” said Sintay, who is from Richland, Wash. “I don’t think I would work two jobs again.”

Sintay points out the convenience of working on campus despite having to split work hours between the Cannon Dining Center and the Creamery on Ninth.

Quitting a minimum-wage job for a position of greater pay can be difficult for students, Mallett said.

“I think it’s the competition,” Mallett said of what she thinks is holding students back from making the transition. “Who am I to make more money than these people who have more education? Poor jobs and pay. It becomes a social norm.”

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