Rising above the bare minimum

In addition to a love of learning, many students attend college to ensure they will be able to obtain a job in the field of their choice after graduation and receive a solid income.

However, in today’s shifting economy, getting a job after graduation isn’t always guaranteed. With high levels of debt for recent college graduates, being able to find a job to pay off loans is increasingly important, but more and more graduates are finding themselves taking up jobs that pay the federal minimum wage or less — 260,000 people with a bachelor’s degrees in 2013, to be exact.

On April 15, the “Fight for $15 Labor” movement expanded nationally throughout college campuses and in over 200 cities, as protesters called to increase the minimum wage to $15 for jobs ranging from fast food workers to janitorial positions.

About 8,000 part-time professors protested at our sister school, the University of Illinois at Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, demonstrators in Champaign-Urbana protested at the McDonald’s on Neil and Kirby streets.

These movements usher in an important call to action: In order for our citizens to be able to live, function and afford basic rights and necessities, it is crucial to raise the minimum wage — at least by some amount.

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    In 2011, a full-time worker needed to earn $11.06 an hour to keep a family of four out of poverty, according to the Economic Policy Institute. While hopefully students at colleges across the nation don’t have to worry about feeding three other people, many students still have to work jobs outside of school in order to afford tuition, housing and materials needed to attend a university, All on top of being specifically focused on being successful students to have steady incomes in the future.

    Illinois current minimum wage stands at $8.25, which is $1 higher than the national rate. Chicago is increasing its minimum wage, starting at $10 on July 1 and will increase it to $13 in 2019. But it’s time to consider raising the minimum wage throughout the entire nation.

    While raising the minimum wage immediately from $8.25 to $15 an hour may seem best for students and people living in poverty, it could be financially shocking to employers, especially of small businesses. Increasing minimum wage at a rate that will keep people working should be a number one priority, but the minimum wage should be at least enough to raise and keep a family out of poverty.