President Capilouto - Give Undergraduate Workers a $15 Minimum Wage!

UK President Eli Capilouto

The University of Kentucky promises to put students first so they can “discover what is wildly possible.” Increasingly it has become more difficult for students to afford the costs of attending university. Rising costs due to inflation and the lingering health risks of the COVID-19 Pandemic, among a myriad of factors, make working on campus as an undergraduate unfeasible for many students.

Union research estimates that undergraduate workers make an average of between $10 and $11 an hour. Students who qualify for federal work study make below this average, which is unacceptable given the circumstances needed to qualify for federal work study. International students also depend on wages from their campus jobs, as they are unable to work elsewhere in the city, and have restricted budgets as part of their visas.

The Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator reveals that the wage necessary for a single person in the Lexington/Fayette metro area to maintain a modest standard of living is $16.99/hour. In 2020, UCW-KY fought for, and won, a $15 minimum wage for regular employees. However, because of how undergraduate workers are classified at UK, they were excluded from this victory. This decision left countless students without a living wage, many of whom depend on their campus job for living expenses.


Dear President Capilouto,

In 2022 you received a 23.4% pay raise to become the highest-paid SEC public university president, making your base pay over $1 million per year. Meanwhile students on campus are struggling to make ends meet with the rising cost of living. If the University can afford to give such a large raise to one person, it can afford to ensure that the most vulnerable members of its community are able to afford basic necessities.

We, the undersigned members of United Campus Workers Kentucky and of the University of Kentucky campus community, call on you to fairly compensate undergraduate workers and take the following steps to ensure economic security for students:

   1. Pay all undergraduate student workers a living wage

By the 2023-2024 academic year, the University of Kentucky should:

i. Establish a $15/hour campus-wide minimum wage for all undergraduate workers — no exceptions

ii. Establish a taskforce to ensure that the economic needs of all students are being met regardless of employment status

iii. Require that departments and units which employ undergraduate students and receive external grants pay those workers the campus minimum wage

iv. Require contracted employers to pay student workers the campus minimum wage as a condition for campus presence

   2. Ensure fair representation of undergraduate workers

By the 2023-2024 academic year, the University of Kentucky should:

i. Include statistics and demographics about undergraduate workers in data to be made public by the University, aggregating and anonymizing data as necessary to comply with FERPA regulations

ii. Revise the temporary and student worker classification (linked) last updated in 2013 to give those students the following guarantees:

   a. Job availability after return from unpaid leave

   b. Eligibility for paid leaves including:

  • Sick leave
  • Temporary disability leave
  • Vacation leave
  • Official University holidays

   c. Eligibility to participate in one of the University healthcare plans

iii. Create an official process for undergraduate student workers to file complaints about mistreatment within their workplace and to challenge unjust firings

   3. Meet with UCW leadership to work through issues facing undergraduate workers

In the 2023-2024 academic year, the University of Kentucky should establish a working group that meets frequently with UCW elected leadership to assess the problems facing undergraduate workers, and workers of all job classes at the university.

To: UK President Eli Capilouto
From: [Your Name]