Student Workers Find Jobs Rewarding Despite Lower Wage

By Andy Bays

Student workers at City College get valuable experience learning new skills in a flexible work environment that puts their education first. One work-related downside is the pay: at $10.74 per hour; it’s below the San Francisco minimum wage that has been $12.25 since 2015.

Many students say they don’t mind the minimal pay, however, in light of the convenience and relaxed atmosphere.

Mai Chau, a hospitality major from Vietnam, said she loves working in the Student Activities Office, which is her first job in America.

“For me, it’s really nice. I have friends who work at restaurants, and they always seem to be so stressed out,” Chau said. “Also, I get to improve my English.”

Nanette Moafanua, who works in the Office of Student Workers, said there are currently 655 student workers at City College. Some of whom are paid by the General School Fund, some by Federal money, and others through grants. Most of the student workers are working in an office, as teacher assistants, or as lab aids.

“Our goal is to provide students an opportunity to gain work experience. Some students come from other countries, and they’ve never had a job before,” Moafanua said. “All student workers get the same amount per hour, and they work 15 hours per week.”

Student workers take home approximately $150 per week — hardly enough to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

The city’s minimum wage increase did not apply to City College due to Board policy,” said Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Development Samuel Santos. “$10.74 was chosen because, at that time, it was the city minimum wage. The district pays students at the state minimum wage, not city minimum wage.”

Santos said there is “not currently” any talk of raising the wage for student workers and did not respond to the question of whether he would support a raise.

Vanessa Valenzuela, a sociology major, started working in the Family Resource Center last year after being introduced to it as a parent using the childcare program.

“I like working here a lot. It’s convenient: I don’t have to drive anywhere or run around. The supervisors are understanding about exams and homework,”

Amy Coffey, a Management Assistant in Student Activities for 18 months, said she tries to make it easy for her student workers to focus on school. “Supervisors are understanding of homework, finals and study time. Obviously, the money is not the best. I wish there were more.”

The job is not necessarily only to get the tasks done but to provide valuable work experience, learning opportunities and job skills,” Coffey said.

As Valenzuela did light-office duties while student-mothers used the computers in the Family Resource Center. She acknowledged the low pay as being part of the bigger picture.

“The pay sucks,” Valenzuela said. “You can’t live off it. But it’s still way better than working at the mall.”

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