Ivy Shannon wasn’t the only student worker who was surprised to receive a raise from the University of Georgia beginning Sept. 27.
Students began receiving a base hourly rate of $9 per hour — an increase from the previous base hourly rate of $7.90. Current student employees’ hourly wages increased by $1.10, though non-student worker wages were not affected.
Sophomore Hadar Gendelman, who has been working at Bolton Dining Commons for four months, said she initially thought she was getting fired.
“And then I actually read the email and I got a whole $1.10 raise. I was pretty psyched,” Gendelman said. “It’s only $1, but it adds up, and I really need anything I can get right now.”
The raise came because UGA Dining Services did a study approximately a month ago comparing their student pay rate with other schools in the University System of Georgia. Bryan Varin, the executive director for dining services, said the study often found $8.50 an hour to be the common base rate.
Part of the reason for pay increase was to start attracting student workers again, Varin said. There are less than 600 student workers on staff, but Varin said the ideal number is closer to 800 in order to have a greater ratio of student workers to full-time workers.
There are currently 302 full-time food service employees on the active roster, while part-time employees are closer to around 30, Varin said. It takes three or four students to fulfill one full-time role.
“During the academic year, the typical ratio of student employees is about two students to one full-time, benefited employee,” Varin said. “That’s a little bit off right now, and we’re trying to make up ground there.”'
As for non-student workers, this raise may get them more help at the dining locations, but it doesn’t affect their own pay. Instead, the University System of Georgia is responsible for setting nonstudent worker wages, which start at higher rates than $7.90 or $8.50 for dining service employees.
Joseph Olmstead, a freshman biology major from Suwanee, was also making $7.90 when he started at Snelling Dining Commons in early September.
“I heard that [the raise] was an incentive to hire more student workers to alleviate some of the overtime the full timers were putting in,” Olmstead said. “Honestly I think that with all the overtime they put in before, they should get a raise as well because hopefully they won’t be working overtime anymore but still get the extra money.”
A full-time food service worker, supervisor and cook all start at an hourly minimum wage of $11.779 an hour. An assistant manager starts off with a base pay of $11.905. A dining commons manager I starts at $14.505, while a dining commons manager II at $16.821 and dining service captain at $15.62.
The Red & Black reached out to multiple non-student workers for comment, all of whom said they were told they were not allowed to talk to the press about their jobs.
Gendelman has noticed the lack of student workers and thinks the raise will attract more students to dining services.
“We are so incredibly understaffed, and I hope this will lure some unassuming freshmen into a part-time gig here,” Gendelman said.
Robert Holden, the associate vice president of Auxiliary Services, said dining services first started considering the pay raise because of a lack of student worker applicants. Varin cited an improving economy as a reason for the decline in student workers for the past few years.
“We wanted to go back and make sure we put in a wage that would be a substantial enough wage that it would attract people to come work for us,” Holden said.
Shannon pointed toward limited hours and the previous base pay as a reason for less student workers.
“Starting off at $7.90 just isn’t enough with one job and limited 20 hours, so I’ve always had two jobs. I have three jobs currently because it just wasn’t enough before, but it’s a relief that we’re getting this because I can cut back on hours elsewhere,” Shannon said.
Gendelman felt the same relief.
“I’m in a pretty tight spot right now financially. I’m literally trying to spend less than $40 for the entire month of October, including groceries and essentials,” Gendelman said. “I was thinking about getting another job because I can’t work any more hours at Bolton than I already do.”
For Olmstead, the raise was also going to a good cause.
“I’m using this job to save up to buy a car, so now it’s going to happen a lot quicker,” Olmstead said.
During her three years working in Dining Services, Shannon said she noticed students who would leave Dining Services for other jobs with more money or work additional jobs to support themselves financially.
Olmstead was almost among those students after less than a month at Snelling.
“I was extremely excited [about the raise] considering I was thinking about quitting, but it definitely made me stay,” Olmstead said.
Shannon has been working at the Niche Pizza Co. in the Tate Student Center since her freshman year. She started with the base pay of $7.90 but received annual merit-based raises each year, each of about 35 cents, she said.
Raises for student workers occur either annually, like with full-time workers, or by promotion, according to the UGA Dining Services website.
Three annual raises and two promotions put Shannon’s pay at $9.25 an hour before this raise. With the raise, she’ll now be making around $10.35.