By: Pen Pate ’22, Staff Writer

Infographics by Nathan Jordan ’22

Davidson’s student employment webpage notes that in any given year, the College employs roughly 800 students, who log about 100,000 hours of work. The site states that students are encouraged to work in an effort to “enrich your education” outside of the classroom, and as a method to learn skills such as time management, working in teams, and professional readiness.

For many students, on-campus employment is necessary to help pay for tuition, books, and other essential expenses. For others, on-campus employment is a way to bring in extra income to pay for school-related or non-school-related expenses. Regardless of the purpose of working a job, it is worth evaluating Davidson’s pay practices for its student employees. 

In a Twitter thread posted over winter break, Nathan Jordan ‘22 broke down some of Davidson’s pay practices in relation to its peer institutions and noted a few patterns. 

Based on data collected from institutions’ websites, Jordan showed that Davidson’s minimum wage for a first-year in a job in a Level I payscale position ranks last among the college’s 18 peer institutions. Davidson’s lowest pay grade amounts to $7.50 per hour, $0.20 lower than the second lowest minimum student wage, but over six dollars fewer than the highest student minimum wage at $14 per hour. Additionally, Davidson’s minimum wage is over three dollars fewer per hour than the average of our 18 peer institutions. 

Importantly, Davidson’s highest possible student wage is $10.50 per hour, for a student in their fourth year at a job, in an Academic-level job. This highest student wage is still $0.24 less than the average absolute minimum student wage at our 18 peer institutions. 

 States vary in minimum wage laws, however, suggesting a potential effect on different schools’ student payment practices. For example, Williams College in Massachusetts sets the highest minimum student wage of our peer institutions at $13.50 per hour, matching the minimum wage in Massachusetts. Davidson pays just above the state-mandated minimum wage, as North Carolina’s minimum is the federal $7.25 per hour, while Davidson’s minimum is $7.50. 

The difference between Davidson’s minimum student wage and the highest student wage represents a gap of $3.50, or roughly 40 percent, while Williams’ increase from lowest to highest wage is roughly 17.5 percent.

Ultimately, Jordan notes in his thread, the reason that these wages matter is the cost of attending college. While Davidson does not include loans in its financial aid packages, 21 percent of recent graduates received federal loans, with a median debt of roughly $19,000, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard. Because students cannot see the exact methods colleges use to determine their expected contribution, we cannot know how the college sets that number for each individual.  

If Davidson does not automatically include loans in its financial aid packages, one might hope that the college would attempt to mitigate as much as possible any loans that students take out of their own volition. Jordan asks of the Davidson community: “Does anyone at Davidson believe $7.50-$9 is fair compensation for the work students do?”

This article was updated on 3/2/21 to include updated graphics.