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Change, finally! After months of articles on NAU’s low minimum wage and a petition that garnered over 2,000 signatures, we finally have some change coming our way.

Although I will be graduating and the low minimum wage on campus won’t affect me, the people I work with who are younger than I am need this raise just to continue living in Flagstaff.

At the spring forum on April 18, President Rita Cheng said NAU will raise its minimum wage from $8 to $10. She said this increase will help 28 percent of current employees.

NAU will also give full-time faculty and staff a three percent salary increase, which will start July 1. It makes me hopeful to see that President Cheng is taking action to improve the wages of NAU employees. For student workers, this change in wage may not happen for a while, but it’s something to look forward to. It’s also a sign that President Cheng is finally listening to what we are saying.

Her presence has been more frequent in the newsroom of late. She has visited the Media Innovation Center three times within two semesters, which is probably more than she has ever been in the Communication Building. She’s visited The Lumberjack these past two semesters and just recently sat in on an NAZ Today broadcast.

She also mentioned the awards the newsroom received in her spring forum.

Some might be skeptical at her sudden interest in what certain student groups are doing, but I think every effort is for the better. Actions speak louder than words, right? Hopefully President Cheng doesn’t disappoint.

This increase in the minimum wage will mean so much for student workers, as most will be able to better afford the high-cost housing in Flagstaff. They will be able to buy the groceries they need—and not just the basics. Real, fresh, healthy food. Student workers will be able to better help their parents afford their education. They will have an easier time paying their bills.

The minimum wage on campus and the minimum wage of Flagstaff will still be disproportionate, but at least it will be closer. The $8.50 minimum wage the campus has now is practically nothing, especially with rent being so high.

On the other hand, some may say that this minimum wage increase will not help at all. Another thing that is increasing on campus is tuition. If a student worker is working their way through college to pay for their education, the tradeoff might not be so beneficial. Student workers will be getting paid more, but the costs of things on campus will be increasing as well. I’m curious to see what happens and to hear the opinions of student workers when they get the minimum wage increase while also having to pay two percent more in tuition.

Although President Cheng is speaking of change, will it actually help?

It is the same issue for the minimum wage of Flagstaff. The minimum wage for the city will reach $15 an hour by 2021. What will that increase mean to the costs of food, transportation and housing in Flagstaff? Ideally, with an increase in wages, that would mean people will continue to be able to live in the place they want to live in.

I am hoping for the best for future Lumberjacks and Flagstaff residents, that this mountain town won’t be lost to high-end housing complexes and big-money companies.

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Ariel Cianfarano is the circulation director of The Lumberjack, Northern Arizona University's student newspaper. College Chronicles aims to connect Flag Live! readers to various aspects of campus life.

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