Maximum Work on Minimum Wage Salary

Allyson Carnahan, a junior business major at Youngstown State University, lives on her own and works two jobs.

By Brianna Gleghorn

For many Youngstown State University students, being a full-time student and a full-time employee is a part of their regular routine. But what price, physically and mentally, do students pay to earn a degree and provide a stable income?

One issue for students who work several jobs to afford living on their own is that they may have a hard time focusing on their schoolwork.

An article from the American Psychological Association states, “A full-time worker making the federal minimum wage earns $15,080 per year — an annual income that sits below the federal poverty level of $16,020 for a family of two.”

Krystal Marcum, a chemistry and forensic science major, describes her weekly schedule as “exhausting.”

“It’s freeing in a way to not have to rely on anybody, but it’s exhausting,” Marcum said. “I literally have 10 minutes of downtime with work and school some days, and I’m up until 3 a.m. doing homework and it’s a lot.”

Marcum said there have been times she had to choose between her schoolwork and working to pay bills that month.

“There’s been many times where I’ll get called to pick up a shift and it’s like, ‘OK, do I want an A on this paper, or do I want to pay the electric bill this month?’ It’s little stuff like that,” she said.

In Marcum’s opinion, having a full-time job would be easier than working two part-time jobs.

“If more full-time employment would be open to working with students, it would be different, I feel,” she said. “There’s been many times where grades have suffered.”

Marcum said being focused and organized is what gets her through the excessive workload.

“I think for those of us students like me that have to do so much extra, I write everything down,” she said. “And I always remember that your job will, most of the time, always be there.”

The YSU website states, “Each semester hour of credit represents an average of three hours of study and instruction every week through the term.” 

A YSU student taking the 12-credit-hour minimum is considered a full-time student and is suggested to spend an additional 36 hours outside of the classroom to complete assignments. 

Huaiyu Peter Chen, an associate professor of finance, said college should be a time for learning and getting involved in student organizations.

“I think the most important thing in going to college is to get good grades, learning while you’re supposed to learn, get an internship, find a decent job, make connections with your classmates, make friends and engage in student organizations,” Chen said.

In January 2020, the minimum wage in Ohio increased by 15 cents from $8.55 per hour to $8.70 per hour. For tipped employees, it increased from $4.30 per hour to $4.35.

“Some people support it. Some people are against it,” Chen said. “What the studies show is once you increase the minimum wage to a certain degree, you decrease the number of jobs available, so you have to take a look at the unintended consequences.”

He said if the minimum wage is raised too high, it could put smaller businesses in financial trouble if they cannot afford to pay the salaries. 

“For example, a city in the West Coast, Seattle, like California, when they increased the minimum wage to $14, I believe, so you have to be aware of unintended consequences,” Chen said. “Once we increase the minimum wages to a certain degree, a lot of jobs will disappear.”

A proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution will go to the Ohio Ballot Board to annually raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2025. 

Those for the amendment hope to put it on the November ballot.

In Chen’s opinion, focusing on receiving a quality education is more important than working a minimum wage job.

“A lot of the students have to take a part-time job to go through college,” he said. “I’m not against anyone taking a part-time job, I encourage my kids to take a part-time job when they grow up because that’s the way to appreciate hard working.”

Allyson Carnahan, a junior business major, said living on her own while working two jobs is challenging.

Allyson Carnahan, a junior business major at Youngstown State University, lives on her own and works two jobs. Photo by Kamron Meyers/The Jambar

“It’s very stressful at times and overwhelming,” Carnahan said. “It’s definitely worth it. I was always taught growing up to work hard for what you want and strive to be successful.”

She said seeing other students enjoy their free time and extracurricular activities can be hard while she juggles school and her two jobs at Aldi and TanFastic. 

“At times, I get a little bit jealous of people who just go to school and don’t really have to worry about anything else,” she said. “Sometimes I think, ‘Oh I wish I had that’ or ‘That would be nice,’ but at the same time I think it’d be a little bit boring.”

Carnahan said she pushed through because she knows after graduation it will be rewarding.

“I think you’ll get to do what you want to do, and you won’t always have to go to school at the same time and work,” she said. “Just keep pushing because there is a finish line even if you can’t see it yet.”