Minimum wage puts college graduates at disadvantage

A gallon of milk costs $4.59. A gallon of gas costs $3.75. A loaf of bread costs $5.00, but the federal minimum wage rate stands at $7.25.

How are college graduates supposed to support themselves with such low pay?

Minimum wage rates vary by state and leave some without a base line wage. Currently, in North Carolina, the federal minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour. Some states have raised their minimum wage rates, while others have not. Recently, according to the National Employment Law Project, 10 states have begun to use an index which adjusts the minimum wage annually to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

“The remaining states and the federal government have not yet indexed their minimum wages,” says NELP. “As a result, they erode in value each year.”

The cost of living has risen ever since the recession and continues to increase due to the poor economic state of our country. Career Counselor for Adults Vivian Lutian discusses the problem at hand.

“(The) economy has stalled, there is a lack of jobs, and the unemployment rate is high (at) 8.6 percent,” said Lutian. “Since the minimum wage has remained stable, I do not think it’s going to present a problem. The larger problem is that economy has stalled. And so, especially here in N.C. we don’t have the number of jobs available that other parts of the country do.”

Despite minimum wage staying the same, the amount will affect people far and near, especially students who plan to graduate this spring. Minimum wage should be raised. If the bad economy is affecting the entire country then all states should adjust their minimum wage.

“The federal minimum wage needs to be raised,” says senior Amy McMin. “And I wish states would recognize it shouldn’t be a ‘minimum’ wage but a ‘living’ wage.”

This affects college students as well as families. In McMin’s experience, earning such a low wage, many of her co-workers had to use food stamps from the government to pay for groceries to support their families.
On the other hand, many college students have loans to pay off after they graduate and will be affected similarly.

“It’s going to directly influence my lifestyle,” says senior Jordan Poirier. “I have human needs like food, shelter and gas and those products all cost a lot of money. Plus, I have to pay back an exorbitant amount of student loans to the government. I just don’t see it being realistic.”

But, there is an alternative to settling for a job that pays minimum wage. College graduates should aim for their dream job first rather than applying for a restaurant or barista job.

“The very best way to find a job nowadays is through networking and contacts,” says Lutian. “It’s the people who know you, who you know or the people they know. It’s not in the contacts who are in your immediate circle, but your friends contacts in which you find the critical person who can give you a job. Its word of mouth from someone who knows you who can get you that job.”

Certainly, the unemployment rate can be discouraging when starting a job search, but McMin gives us an important reminder.

“My mind needs stimulation, and I mean more than memorizing produce codes,” says McMin. “I do not want to be a waitress or have a service job. That is why I came to college.”

With that said, until the wage rises, it’s time to network and let the contacts flow.

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