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A university president gave up $90,000 to give his minimum wage workers a raise

A Washington DC protest from restaurant workers in favor of a higher minimum wage.
A Washington DC protest from restaurant workers in favor of a higher minimum wage.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The interim president of Kentucky State University is giving up $90,000 of his $350,000 annual salary to give minimum wage workers on campus a raise, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

The lowest paid workers on campus currently make $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum wage. They'll now make $10.25 per hour, an increase that will stay in effect even after the university hires a new full-time president.

The interim president, Raymond Burse, was president of Kentucky State in the 1980s before working for General Electric as a senior executive and retiring in 2012. "This is not a publicity stunt," Burse said, according to the Herald-Leader. "You don't give up $90,000 for publicity. I did this for the people."

Kentucky's state legislature considered a bill this year that would have increased the state's minimum wage to $10.10 — the minimum wage President Obama would like to see instituted nationwide — but the measure failed in the state senate. A living wage for a single adult in Frankfort, where Kentucky State is located, is $8.29 per hour, according to MIT; for an adult with a child, it's $17.37 per hour.

Other college presidents have taken similar actions, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The president of Hampton University donated more than $100,000 to give low-wage workers a raise to $9 per hour. After Obama called for a $10.10 minimum wage, the president of Centenary College in Louisiana raised the pay of the 25 employees who were making less than that.